2009 GCN RISING STAR

DHS information architect Anthony Hoang has helped make data-sharing plans a reality

GCN recognizes the innovators who help keep government on the front line of IT

Name: Anthony M. Hoang

Age: 32

Organization: Homeland Security Department, Office of the Chief Information Officer, Office of the Chief Technology Officer, Enterprise Data Management Office

Title: Principal Information Architect

First IT mentor: My father, John Hoang, instilled entrepreneurialism, a discipline of hard work, and an ethic of innovation. He allowed me to be his “apprentice” (assembling 286 12 MHz PCs) when I was in the fourth grade, and my passion has only grown ever since.


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Latest accomplishment on the job: The component organizations at the department have each contributed significantly to strengthening the DHS Information Sharing Environment. I recently had the opportunity to elevate some of the most innovative and effective practices in SOA to the department’s information officers for increasing interoperability and IT efficiency.

Career highlight: One of my career highlights has been the opportunity to show up every day to an environment where I am constantly in awe of my co-workers' abilities and relentless dedication. Being a part of the National Information Exchange Model (NIEM) [Program Management Office] has been an opportunity of a lifetime — to be a part of one the most effective and driven interagency teams confronting the challenges of information sharing toward the end of strengthening the nation.

Favorite job-related bookmark: Being that we, IT leaders, are essentially in the business of leading change, I find the TED talks to be useful fuel for the work we do: www.ted.com (I particularly liked Seth Godin’s and Gordon Brown’s TED2009 talks).

For my government IT news, I rely on the 15-20 e-mails that I receive every day from my colleague Anthony Saputo (he’s even active on the weekends!)

Dream non-IT related job (really): I have dreams of working for Gary Haugen’s International Justice Mission (combating human trafficking and violent injustice) or Bono’s ONE Campaign (combating global poverty).

The greatest information technology innovation can be quickly lost to obscurity if it doesn't have a champion to get it into the operational shops. Anthony Hoang, the Homeland Security Department’s principal information architect, has shown a remarkable persistence for making this happen.

"He consistently fills the leadership void in working groups and possesses the qualities within that will ensure his career leads towards senior leadership," said Donna Roy, executive director of the National Information Exchange Model (NIEM), a joint partnership of DHS and the Justice Department.

Hoang has been instrumental in bringing to DHS a standard for improving the exchange of information across DHS offices. He started and now leads the Information Sharing and Exchange Program within the Enterprise Data Management Office. Given that DHS has an annual IT budget of $5.3 billion, which is spread over 22 different components, getting everyone on the same page is a challenging task. On top of that, DHS also shares information with other federal agencies and other governments worldwide.

"We've seen a lot of mandates for data sharing," he said. "It sounds inherently like an IT problem but, really, a successful initiative is where the business [side] gets involved."

NIEM, which uses the Extensible Markup Language, is a schema that allows two parties to agree on a set of terms for common datasets, such as "name" or "address." In 2007, Hoang started a program from scratch to adapt NIEM. Since starting as a one-man operation with little funding, he has built up the office to include seven contractors and federal employees, all of whom are working through the problems of adopting an XML schema at the operational level.

Bridging the technical and operational worlds is natural for Hoang. When he went to the University of Virginia, he majored not strictly in engineering but in a multidisciplinary field called systems engineering. "It was a degree in methodical problem-solving," he said. The idea was to study complex systems, such as finance systems or transportation systems. It involved not only engineering classes but also classes in math, statistics, finance and computers. "People graduating from this program really had a balanced skill set."

This work has carried through to his present job. "We are very much in the role where we’re not doing technology for the sake of technology but rather to bring value to some business [task] or some mission," he said.

For instance, he reconciled NIEM with another DHS schema, the Geospatial Data Model, so DHS grant recipients wouldn't need to file their information using both formats. He spearheaded an effort at DHS to develop NIEM training materials and encouraged the agency's Science and Technology Directorate to invest in the development of NIEM tools.

Hoang also has championed more than just NIEM. He contributed significantly to uCore, a project to define an information-sharing schema among military and intelligence agencies. He also was instrumental in helping assemble a DHS terrorist watch list, which involved working with multiple DHS agencies.

"His work will have long lasting impacts for DHS … and across the federal government for years to come," Roy said.

About the Author

Joab Jackson is the senior technology editor for Government Computer News.

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