Software // Information Management
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9/9/2013
02:54 PM
Wyatt Kash
Wyatt Kash
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Information Sharing: Feds Cite Progress

Government agencies are gaining ground in automating the exchange of information, says new report that highlights Boston Marathon bombing lessons.

Top 10 Government IT Innovators Of 2013
Top 10 Government IT Innovators Of 2013
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As organizers of the Boston Marathon prepared for last April's race, federal, state and local emergency and law enforcement officials were busy putting another set of preparations in place.

Representatives from Boston's police, fire and emergency medical services, as well as from the FBI, the Department of Homeland Security, the Federal Aviation Administration and the Coast Guard, were at Massachusetts' State Emergency Operations Center in nearby Framingham, finalizing contingency plans for operating during a terrorist event.

That center, along with the Boston Regional Intelligence Center (one of 78 government-run "data fusion centers" in the U.S.) and the FBI's Guardian system became instrumental in identifying Dzhokhar and Tamerlan Tsarnaev as the two men suspected of exploding a pair of bombs April 15 that killed three people and injured 264 others.

The stunning speed with which authorities were able to piece together information and track down the suspects provided the public a glimpse of the progress government agencies are making to share homeland security information more effectively, says Kshemendra Paul.

[ Should government IT management be a cabinet-level post? See Do We Need A U.S. Department Of Technology? ]

Paul is head of the Information Sharing Environment (ISE) program within the Office of Director of National Intelligence. His office is responsible for developing a common framework that various agencies and the private sector can use for collecting, standardizing, sharing and safeguarding homeland security and law enforcement information, while also protecting privacy and civil rights. Paul has a special appreciation for the challenges surrounding that task. Before moving to ISE, he served as chief enterprise architect for the federal government in the Executive Office of the President.

His assessment of the government's progress on information sharing is captured in a 212-page ISE report delivered to Congress on behalf of the president last month and made available to the public on Sept. 4. The report details a wide range of cross-governmental information exchange programs and includes new details on how those programs helped in the Boston bombing investigation.

Referring to the Obama administration's National Strategy for Information Sharing and Safeguarding, released last year, he said: "You'll see signs of progress year over year in every area."

That strategy, as President Obama said when he released it last December, "aims to strike a proper balance between sharing information with those who need it to keep our country safe and safeguarding it from those who would do us harm."

"There are gaps," Paul said of the information sharing efforts, which are catalogued in the ISE report. "It's not all positive."

Last year, for instance, 65% of agencies participating in ISE reported little or no progress in tagging data, hindering the ability of other agencies to discover and retrieve it for analysis.

And Boston's police commissioner, Edward F. Davis III, told a Senate Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee in July that in spite of joint efforts, the Justice Department failed to share information on terrorism threats with local officials prior to the Boston Marathon bombing.

But some of ISE's efforts are beginning to pay off. Paul, in an exclusive interview with InformationWeek, pointed to an ISE-funded pilot program that automates a historically cumbersome and time-consuming process for verifying that an employee of one governmental agency has access rights to information belonging to another agency. It also automatically ensures that information safeguards are enforced.

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WKash
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WKash,
User Rank: Author
9/13/2013 | 8:12:24 PM
re: Information Sharing: Feds Cite Progress
Always glad to see when federal officials who are actually in charge of programs like the one reported here -- take time to comment and share their views in our online forums on InformationWeek.
Kshemendra
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Kshemendra,
User Rank: Apprentice
9/13/2013 | 7:58:30 PM
re: Information Sharing: Feds Cite Progress
I appreciate the comments. I mostly agree with @OtherJimDonahue G«Ű it can seem a slow pace. But its important to recognize the scale and scope of the undertaking, the impact already realized, and the need to do transformation while operating. I am impatient when it comes to finding good solutions, as are most of my colleagues across government. Processes and bureaucracy exist for a reason, and we do have to work within the system.

I am constantly asking myself how we can move faster in these issues. One way weG«÷re trying to catalyze action is by working closely with industry. IG«÷m speaking with the geospatial industry on Monday at a USGIF event, and then speaking with standards development practitioners at OMG the following week. The links:

http://usgif.org/news/412-usgi...
http://www.omg.org/news/meetin...

@RobPreston, check out the G«£interludeG«• sections of our Annual Report. There are a lot of pilots, examples, etc., of the work that weG«÷ve done. We also try to highlight success stories on our blog. Some things do need to be kept confidential (information safeguarding is just as important as information sharing) but we want to talk about pilots and projects whenever we can, because other jurisdictions can benefit by learning about what worked for their colleagues. The link:

http://www.ise.gov/annual-repo...

Thank you for your comments.
WKash
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WKash,
User Rank: Author
9/12/2013 | 2:52:39 AM
re: Information Sharing: Feds Cite Progress
There's a lot of rich details here too that we didn't get to cover on data fusion centers. For instance, the report notes: As of March 2013, 78 designated state and major
urban area fusion centers make up the National Network of Fusion Centers (National
Network). Agency responses to the 2013 ISE Performance Assessment Questionnaire ]indicate
that 57% of federal agencies participate in the National Network; and that 68%
incorporate fusion center information into their own products and
services.
RobPreston
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RobPreston,
User Rank: Author
9/11/2013 | 5:11:09 PM
re: Information Sharing: Feds Cite Progress
The beauty here is in the details. The more the feds can show data sharing across agencies and departments (that is, give specific examples) rather than just tell us they're making progress, the better. Obviously, some information sharing needs to be kept confidential.
WKash
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WKash,
User Rank: Author
9/11/2013 | 1:34:06 PM
re: Information Sharing: Feds Cite Progress
Much of that progress is due to long standing work initiated by NIEM - the National Information Exchange Model. Worth noting: The National Association of State Chief Information Officers (NASCIO) recently highlighted NIEM as an example of effective governance that enables cross-jurisdictional collaboration. Read More at http://www.nascio.org/publicat...
OtherJimDonahue
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OtherJimDonahue,
User Rank: Apprentice
9/10/2013 | 9:19:14 PM
re: Information Sharing: Feds Cite Progress
I'm glad some progress is being made -- it's important stuff -- but, seriously, the slow pace of this is ridiculous.
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