Wyatt Kash | NIEM's reach

Editor's Desk

Wyatt Kash

Those with a stake in the evolution of the National Information Exchange Model are likely to be pleased this month with NIEM's first major upgrade since it was introduced a year ago (GCN.com/792). Yet even those without a direct stake, but for whom information-sharing remains important, might consider a fresh look at what the teams behind NIEM are accomplishing.

NIEM is the outgrowth of efforts that took root inside the Justice Department to standardize the Extensible Markup Language schema used to describe the information commonly used by and exchanged among federal, state and local enforcement agencies. Those efforts led to the Global Justice XML Data Model ' a mouthful to be sure ' which laid the foundation for building a vocabulary of metatagging terms with unified, if not universal, meaning.

Reconciling the varying definitions and uses of even a single term among different groups remains one of the underlying challenges to advancing the ability to share information. A passport, for example, seems like a pretty straightforward term.

But because the many organizations that deal with passport information differ in nature, so do the terms used to describe them. Harmonizing that terminology ' along with 4,000 other terms used in support of emergency management, immigration, infrastructure protection, intelligence, international trade and other disciplines ' is among the thousands of refinements being incorporated in the new NIEM release.

The significance of NIEM goes beyond the data model it is creating. It also serves as a benchmark model for building information-sharing bridges among federal, state and local government agencies.

NIEM's success thus far is due in no small part to the fact that it began as a bottom-up, rather than a top-down, effort. Early leaders recognized that it would require building a coalition of state and local law enforcement agencies to support an XML solution to sharing data. Justice, for its part, played patient partner and facilitator. By the time the Homeland Security Department, which oversees the project with Justice, entered the picture, it was clear that supporting the effort rather than starting a new one made the most sense; that gave NIEM added credibility and momentum. Building an XML schema is no easy task.
But NIEM demonstrates not only that it can be done but also how it can be done.

Wyatt Kash, Editor in chief

E-mail: wkash@1105govinfo.com

About the Author

Wyatt Kash served as chief editor of GCN (October 2004 to August 2010) and also of Defense Systems (January 2009 to August 2010). He currently serves as Content Director and Editor at Large of 1105 Media.

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