DOD adds XML resource

DOD plans to use an XML clearinghouse to encourage interoperability across the department

DOD memo

The Defense Department plans to use an Extensible Markup Language clearinghouse developed in-house to help it standardize XML components and encourage interoperability across the department.

DOD chief information officer John Stenbit said in an April 22 memo that developing a single clearinghouse and registry for creating, finding, reusing and identifying XML components would "support interoperability and minimize overhead." Pete Aldridge, undersecretary of Defense for acquisition, technology and logistics, also signed the memo.

XML enables agencies to "tag" data and documents so it is easier to exchange information among applications and systems. A registry provides standard definitions of those XML tags.

The DOD policy is the first to establish an XML registry and clearinghouse, said Defense Information Systems Agency spokeswoman Betsy Flood. However, "it is not a policy that mandates how to use or implement XML," she said. "Services and agencies are developing specific guidelines and are cooperating and coordinating with DISA as they evolve."

The policy is important because it makes XML "visible and therefore available" to users and developers, Flood said. This means it is "easier for developers to reuse XML and components without having to re-invent them. It facilitates sharing of information so XML developers are more aware of who is using XML and how they are using it."

DISA developed the registry in 1999, but this is the first time that the Pentagon has declared the registry as the DOD clearinghouse.

The registry and clearinghouse will be developed "by identifying best practices, establishing partnerships with industry, public interest groups and other governmental activities, and coordinating XML education and outreach," the two-page memo stated.

All program managers who use XML as an interchange format "must register XML components in accordance with procedures established by DISA," according to the memo.

The move was well received. At "a quick glance, it looks good, which is what I would expect in light of DOD [and] DISA's leadership along these lines," said Owen Ambur, co-chairman of the XML Working Group established by the CIO Council.

"I believe it is very much in line with what we're aiming to do with registry services at XML.gov," he said. "I look forward to continuing to work very closely with DOD toward the establishment of a worldwide set of XML registries that act as one by virtue of compliance with the applicable standards for interoperability."

The XML Working Group, with the National Institute of Standards and Technology, is developing a registry of "inherently governmental" data elements, document type definitions and schemas.

Michael Jacobs, data architecture project leader for the Navy's CIO office, which recently issued a draft XML guide, said the DOD policy is a good first step toward formalizing the DOD XML registration requirements.

"The hard work is yet to come, in the form of the implementation guidance which will flow from the policy," he said.

In an April report, the General Accounting Office said that despite multiple initiatives to define common federal standards and requirements for XML, the lack of central XML guidance could derail interoperability within government.

Every user community must create business standards that provide the vocabulary to perform transactions, GAO officials said, and federal agencies have not come together to define a governmentwide vocabulary.

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