Crossing Organizational and Domain Boundaries
The ISE cannot be built nor will it deliver required capabilities without standards-based innovation. Innovation will result in faster delivery of more cost effective solutions; greater agility in the face of evolving threats through reuse and the ability to identify new requirements and form dynamic networks across mission partners; and the ability to reduce redundancy and unnecessary complexity that drives costs, slows progress, and only aids those that would do us harm. Standards-based innovation includes the development of business processes or functional standards with a particular focus on standardizing the information exchanges at the outer edge of organizations. By leveraging standards-based innovation, industry can help accelerate the delivery of the Information Sharing Environment and secure the nation.
The National Information Exchange Model (NIEM)—a voluntary consensus standard developed in partnership with federal, state, local, and tribal governments, the private sector, and academia—is a key focal point for standards-based innovation. NIEM was launched in 2005 through a partnership agreement between the departments of Justice and Homeland Security and signed by the agencies’ Chief Information Officers. NIEM is not a software program, a computer system, nor a data repository but is a common vocabulary and mature framework surrounding information exchanges among and between governmental entities as well as with private sector and international partners that allows disparate systems to share, exchange, accept, and translate information.
NIEM-based standards innovation is already yielding results, both for mission partners (the buy side) and industry partners (the sell side). In each federal agency’s FY 2011 Passback, a provision asked all to evaluate the adoption and use of the NIEM as the basis for developing reference information exchanges to support specification and implementation of reusable cross-boundary information exchanges. Agency responses indicate that two agencies are currently implementing NIEM on an enterprise level; thirteen agencies or Lines of Business have committed to use NIEM; and seven are pursuing further evaluation. Of the others, several opportunities exist for possible future use.
One example of buy-side results is DHS cost avoidance through use of standards-based innovation. In the President’s FY 2011 Budget, DHS reports 30% cost and time savings in FY 2009 from planning to design through use of NIEM. These savings come through reductions in complexity through coordinated evolution and reuse of best practices, specifications, and actual information exchanges across DHS operational units.
Another buy-side result can be found in DHS’s and DOJ’s integration of NIEM into existing IT processes to achieve internal efficiency and interoperability, and to extend these gains to the outer edge. DHS and DOJ now use NIEM as part of their IT strategic plans, Request for Proposals (RFPs) to vendors, and grant language to state, local, and tribal governments. DOJ, working through the Bureau for Justice Assistance and with DHS, has developed grant language for state, local, and tribal partners that supports use of NIEM at all levels of government. This guidance “… requires all grantees to use the latest NIEM specifications and guidelines regarding the use of XML for all grant awards.”
On the sell-side, industry is beginning to integrate NIEM and support for specific information exchanges into standard product and service offerings. Leading-edge technology vendors are beginning to market NIEM integration and compatibility. Several commercial products support the NIEM-based SAR functional standard described earlier in this report, and vendors are differentiating themselves in the marketplace by innovating on top of the SAR standard. The use of common standards, through efforts like NIEM, offers an unprecedented opportunity for substantial gains for cross domain information exchange, particularly at organizational boundaries. Standards-based innovation and adoption challenges the status quo and presents a way forward to significant improvements in mission effectiveness and efficiency.