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FCW : July 15, 2013
12 July 15, 2013 FCW.COM Commentary | JEFFREY EDGELL Information superiority is critical to our nation s future, particularly in the realms of defense and homeland security. But beyond access to more types of information than one s adversary, superiority also requires the ability to process information faster and more ef ciently. America s information capital is vast. Yet technological obstacles and territorial mind-sets at agen- cies thwart efforts to bring to bear the full power of all the information residing in federal databases. Infor- mation interoperability addresses the system-level obstacles that prevent information exchange. It acknowledges that independently developed systems use different for- mats, meanings and standards, and often contain information of varying quality and security levels. Neutral data models and Web 2.0 technology that allows for seman- tic mediation are the best tools for achieving governmentwide informa- tion interoperability. For example, any organization can map a widget to a universal meaning within a neutral model and share it with every organiza- tion using that neutral model. When drivers and events change a widget s de nition, the widget owner can remap it without affecting the abil- ity to share accurate information among organizations in real time. Semantic concepts allow informa- tion to be combined across sources to augment meaning and sharing, thereby enhancing an organization s overall information enterprise. Until recently, government agen- cies primarily used two neutral models: Universal Core and the Jus- tice Department s National Informa- tion Exchange Model. The Defense Department s decision in October 2012 to use NIEM made it the de facto standard neutral model, pav- ing the way for greater collaboration among law enforcement, defense and homeland security entities. In addition to the tools, informa- tion superiority also demands a dynamic structure that can accom- modate an individual organization s changes without disrupting the over- all information-sharing environment. To achieve such a structure, use the following best practices: 1. Avoid single-purpose solu- tions. Appreciate the need for future information-sharing require- ments rather than focus exclusively on the speci c issue at hand. 2. Allow operational language autonomy. Let organizations retain their unique vernacular. Forcing conformity is costly and shortsighted. 3. Think in a global sense. Deter- mine what information your agency owns and consider what other entities might be consumers of that information. 4. Identify what your organiza- tion requires. Determine what information will enhance your orga- nization s analytical and situational awareness. Knowing what data is needed to expand your posture will in uence your choices. 5. Select an appropriate neutral model. Understand your business/ mission as a rst step, including what will be shared and what is needed to achieve organizational goals. That de nition will elucidate the dimensions of the optimal neu- tral model. 6. Map to the speci c elements in the neutral model. Adhere to this approach to facilitate informa- tion sharing and provide direct linkages to other organizations. Data will be mapped and translated in a language native to the requesting organization. 7. Be mindful of security consid- erations. Recognize that data can be classi ed (and unavailable for universal consumption) or unclassi- ed. Two key business decisions that inform neutral model design and affect cross-domain issues are: Who needs to see this information, and who do I need to share it with? ■ The importance of information interoperability These seven best practices will help the government overcome obstacles to sharing and achieve information superiority Information superiority demands a dynamic structure that can accommodate an individual organization's changes without disrupting the overall information- sharing environment. JEFFREY EDGELL is chief technologist at DHA Group, a management consulting and contracting rm serving federal civilian and defense agencies.
June 30, 2013
July 30, 2013