Information Sharing

A 'start-up guide' for information interoperability

Lego Blocks - Interoperability

The Office of the Director of National Intelligence has rolled out an information-sharing project it hopes will become a template for improving the efficiency and efficacy of cross-organization information sharing.

"Project Interoperability" mirrors the White House's Open Government initiative launched in 2009 and would enhance the implementation of information and networking programs with wide reach across the federal government and private industry, such as the National Institute of Standards and Technology's (NIST) Framework for Improving Critical Infrastructure Cybersecurity.

Roslyn Mazer, senior advisor for policy and strategy in the Office of the Program Manager Information Sharing Environment (PM ISE), described the project as a "start-up guide" for information interoperability for federal and non-federal organizations.

The aim is to provide a common language that makes it easier to share data from disparate sources, along with tools and techniques to create a safer network for any type of information sharing, and to make information transfers less legally burdensome.

DHS and mission partners, including ODNI staff and PM ISE, issued a request for information for the project in February. Kshemendra Paul, program manager for the Information Sharing Environment, announced the official March 27 rollout of the program at an industry workshop April 5. Mazur provided further details at an AFCEA breakfast conference April 9.

ODNI posted the project on the web-based GitHub hosting service for software development projects, which allows wider review, additions and revisions from the public and federal agencies.

The project looks to level the playing field for those who want to communicate across information platforms to share their information. The resulting shared resource, said Mazur, opens new paths for entities with shared interests and goals.

For instance, Project Interoperability can give program managers and procurement officers suggestions on what they need to develop an interoperable system. Program managers get a better way to describe what they want. Private firms get a common language to respond to requests for information (RFIs) and talk to federal customers about what they need.

Although information sharing became a popular topic in the wake of the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks, obstacles still exist. One of those is being able to actually understand information that is shared.

The program looks to provide a common, enterprise platform-agnostic set of tools that agencies, companies and organizations can use to make the sharing process more efficient. The tool kit posted on GitHub presents a common architecture process, repeatable exchange patterns, harmonized standards and specifications to create a common language to describe interoperability, according to the Office of the Director of National Intelligence.

ODNI said the posted tools are in varying states of maturity, with some in "very nascent stages," some more mature, and others brought in from outside the agency.

Mazer wants the tool set to be a living document that is enhanced, developed and managed by stakeholders, including federal agencies. "There are 1,000 flowers blooming across agencies," she said in describing the various efforts to share information. Common starting points and languages are essential to transform all those individual flowers into a beautiful -- and useful -- bouquet.

About the Author

Mark Rockwell is a senior staff writer at FCW, whose beat focuses on acquisition, the Department of Homeland Security and the Department of Energy.

Before joining FCW, Rockwell was Washington correspondent for Government Security News, where he covered all aspects of homeland security from IT to detection dogs and border security. Over the last 25 years in Washington as a reporter, editor and correspondent, he has covered an increasingly wide array of high-tech issues for publications like Communications Week, Internet Week, Fiber Optics News, magazine and Wireless Week.

Rockwell received a Jesse H. Neal Award for his work covering telecommunications issues, and is a graduate of James Madison University.

Click here for previous articles by Rockwell. Contact him at or follow him on Twitter at @MRockwell4.


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