In the past six months, I’ve been attending various conferences and meetings where, to my surprise, the is much talk about new strategies to solve information sharing and interoperability issues but almost no mention of the myriad of investments made in successful information and interoperability efforts that are already in progress or completed.
New organizations and projects have been popping up all over the landscape and claiming they are the one that will be successful in solving interoperability issues. However, nowhere in these discussions am I hearing about the great work already done and the investments made so far to address the interoperability challenges nationwide. It made me realize now, more than ever, that the IJIS Institute and our partners in government and within other practice associations need to do a better job of sharing and promoting all the work we have led or supported around information sharing safeguarding and interoperability with the broader community.
Since 2002, IJIS has been involved in solving information sharing challenges. This involvement came as a result of the events of Sept. 11th and the findings in the Markel Foundation Report and the 9/11 Commission Report on the need for a nationwide capacity to share information that could detect, prevent, or deter a terrorist attack. IJIS Institute membership and staff started looking at enabling information sharing across different levels of governments, across missions, and among the private sector, they realized early on that information sharing cannot be possible without resolving the interoperability issues.
As this discussion on interoperability started within the IJIS Institute, we realized very quickly that everybody has their own definition of interoperability. The first thing that everyone could agree on in the context of information sharing, was that we need to address data interoperability and focus on defining the data syntax challenges. This is where the IJIS Institute Advisory Committees and staff took the leading role in contributing to the development of the first data standard in the justice mission called the Global Justice XML Data Model (GJXDM). It was the IJIS XML Advisory Committee who coined the term Information Package Exchange Document (IEPD), which became the core concept of GJXDM and is now known as the National Information Exchange Model (NIEM). As GJXDM and NIEM took off and got widely adopted, we realized that data itself doesn’t help achieve the interoperability, so IJIS, along with our key partner, National Center for State Courts (NCSC), led the effort to leverage Service Oriented Architecture (SOA) concepts to address the other aspects of achieving interoperability. This SOA model adoption for the justice community became the Justice Reference Architecture (JRA) and got the endorsement of the Federal Advisory Committee Act (FACA) – Global Justice Information Sharing. The IJIS advisory committee then took the lead with subject matter experts from the industry to vet this concept and morph it into the Global Reference Architecture (GRA).
After great success with GJXDM, NIEM, and GRA, the IJIS community realized that these efforts were still just the beginning of solving information sharing and interoperability challenges. There was an effort initiated and funded by the Program Manager for the Information Sharing Environment (PM-ISE) Office under the Office of Director of National Intelligence (ODNI) to help put together the other pieces of the puzzle that could address the full information sharing and interoperability stack. Out of this effort, Project Interoperability was born as an interoperability frameworks built to incorporate, data, services, policy, privacy, security, and Identity Credential and Access Management (ICAM) core components to fully address the interoperability challenges. This set of building blocks formed the concept of the Information Sharing and Safeguarding Core Interoperability Framework (ICIF). The goal of Project Interoperability was to provide an integrated set of mission-agnostic documentary and technical resources that:
- Facilitate operational integration of the ICIF components and
- Advocate standards and technologies most likely to achieve compatibility, performance, and scalability desired in an Information Sharing Environment (ISE).
The other key aspect of this effort was that even though it was sponsored by the PM-ISE, the work products were jointly developed by the Standards Coordinating Council (SCC). The SCC represented members from the federal/state/local government agencies, national practice associations, standards organizations, and the technology industry. Project Interoperability was intended to help:
- Save users time and money in aligning their architectures and establishing ISEs,
- Reduce implementation risks by creating available interoperability examples, known as a common vocabulary, and
- Scaling trust by moving to federated, standard, and automated enforcement of policy assertions at both the technical and policy levels in an ever-changing ecosystem.
All three of these objectives have been demonstrated across the nation, and even internationally, in various projects that government agencies have undertaken to address the information sharing and interoperability challenges.
In the coming months, the IJIS team will be writing about some of these efforts on how government agencies, working with their solution providers, have overcome the information sharing, safeguarding, and interoperability challenges. This will be one of our primary efforts at the IJIS Institute as we raise awareness of the successes and share lessons learned from various efforts. Our goal through this effort will be to help leaders in the public and private sector to connect, collaborate, and share their innovations solving problems through investments already made, and not being forced to break ground already established for information sharing, safeguarding and interoperability