Info sharing depends on the filters

Ted McNamara

The government's broad-based project to create a technical and policy structure for intelligence and law enforcement information sharing relies heavily on upgrading the filters and gates used to shift data up and down the ladder of classification categories, officials say.

Ambassador Ted McNamara, program manager for the Information Sharing Environment, said during a recent interview at his Washington office that 'cross-domain solutions are essential to the operation of the ISE.'

McNamara's office is pushing a range of information-sharing projects forward, mainly by fostering collaboration among federal, state, local and tribal agencies.
For example, McNamara said, he had just met with some 700 officials at a conference focusing on the role of intelligence fusion centers. One result of those meetings has been the creation of working groups to resolve methods for connecting various existing law enforcement and intelligence networks.

'The goal is to figure out how to allow information to get around in a usable fashion,' McNamara said. 'The network has to be constructed so that the proper individuals have access to information [at appropriate levels of classification].'
McNamara said the technical working groups are close to a final agreement on how to operate the sensitive but unclassified networks that will implement part of the ISE.

Funding for changes needed to existing networks will come from participating agencies' IT budgets, McNamara said.

The ISE program's technical staff members already have framed the outlines of an IT architecture that implements the information-sharing goals, officials said in a background briefing.

Compliance with the ISE architecture

already is built into IT requirements for participating agencies through the Office of Management and Budget Form 300 IT investment rules.

Key steps in the ISE program's network building, such as the incorporation of improved cross-domain solutions, have grown out of a process of defining the 'as is' and 'to be' functions of the intelligence-sharing webs, the staff members said.

Technical working groups are polishing the service-oriented architecture of the ISE blueprint, a technical road map that will rely largely on existing protocols such as those developed for the Justice Department's Law Enforcement Information Sharing Program (GCN.com/742).

The ISE officials noted that 'this office doesn't build anything,' and that their program's contribution consists largely of developing business processes and policies to align business and process needs via the technical working groups.

'That business process gets mapped into data elements using the National Information Exchange Model,' a technical-staff leader said during the background briefing. The model is a central Extensible Markup Language metadata registry spawned by Justice's Global Justice XML Data Model project.

The resulting ISE network design will specify functions needed for effective information sharing, including not only the cross-domain solutions but also elements such as search, discovery, identity management and collaboration tools, the officials said.

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