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FCW : November and December 2014
November/December 2014 FCW.COM 35 My previous column focused on home- land security information sharing, both in terms of the successes of the past decade and the remaining challenges. One of the key successes has been the formation and maturation of the National Information Exchange Model (NIEM), a community-driven approach to defining the definitions by which data can be shared among systems and organizations. NIEM uses the XML standard to define the content of messages being exchanged. It’s about the data and how it’s structured. Users can also take advantage of tools that implement the Unified Modeling Language profile for NIEM, which generates XML and pro- vides a business-oriented understand- ing of the exchange. Yet NIEM is only one piece of the information exchange solution. Depending on their business require- ments, information exchanges also require access controls, policy automa- tion and other aspects of implementa- tion. Although NIEM was an outgrowth of efforts that began in the justice and law enforcement community more than a decade ago, today it supports government exchange efforts in more than a dozen communities. The value of NIEM stems from two main strengths: a community focus, and repeatable, reusable processes and tools that support the development of information exchanges. I was drawn to NIEM because of its ability to bring communities together, build consensus and work toward a better government through the sharing of data. This is not a top-down approach. New NIEM communities are formed by having individuals recognize its value and band together to develop and extend the NIEM data model. NIEM has a core set of data ele- ments that all communities use. NIEM’s extensibility allows each community to define additional data elements specific to that community. The members who use NIEM oversee the governance of the model for a community. NIEM has matured to the point that there is a standard approach for developing an information exchange, which is the compilation of business and technical documentation that can be understood by the producer of the information exchange and the receiver. Those exchanges are documented as Information Exchange Package Doc- uments. Over time, open-source and vendor-provided tools have evolved to support the development of such information exchanges and the cre- ation of IEPDs. The documentation of an IEPD includes NIEM-based XML schemas (for data exchange) and business documentation (for understanding the business context and use) that out- lines the use case(s), business require- ments and rules for the exchange. Additional business documentation BY RICHARD A. SPIRES The National Information Exchange Model’s usefulness extends far beyond its origins in justice and law enforcement NIEM: The key to improved information sharing Richard A. Spires has been in the IT field for more than 30 years, with eight years in federal govern- ment service. Most recently, he served as CIO at the Department of Homeland Security. He is now CEO of Resilient Network Systems. CIOPerspective In fiscally constrained times, NIEM is something the federal government can steward for all levels of government to reuse.