OMB architect identifies 'semantic harmonization' as key to effective enterprise architecture

The government is focused on four themes with regard to enterprise architecture, OMB official says.

The Federal Enterprise Architecture is moving toward a more shared architecture that looks across boundaries, said Kshemendra Paul, chief architect with the Office of Management and Budget.

“If we are not planning for reuse, if we are not planning for shared services and information dissemination and we don’t have good business cases with strong performance alignment, we are not going to get to those target outcomes,” Paul said Sept. 9 during an Enterprise Architecture conference sponsored by 1105 Government Information Group. 1105 Media is the parent company of Government Computer News.

The government is focused on four themes with regard to enterprise architecture and where it needs to go, he added.

“We need to manage the portfolio,” the $76 billion in information technology spent across the federal space, he said. “We need to improve efficiency and effectiveness. We need to enable open and transparent government and we need to secure cyber space.”

OMB is working with intra-agency workgroups to integrate business, management and information technology processes. For example, in OMB Circular A-11 Part 5, which focuses on agency Information Resource Management plans, there is explicit discussion about the enterprise architecture plan. There is a need for specific linkage between agency enterprise architecture segment reports and Exhibit 300 documents which focus on the management of IT investments, according to Paul.

“Reusable, secure information exchange is another area that we’re focused on,” he said. The Federal CIO Council has recognized that semantic harmonization is a key issue for cross-boundary information sharing for health and homeland security information.

The government has made progress with the National Information Exchange Model (NIEM) and Universal Core, which came out of the Defense Department. Harmonization of semantics has occurred over DOD, the Justice and Homeland Security departments and the intelligence community, he said.

OMB recently used the NIEM for the economic stimulus law and developing the recipient reporting gateway that will collect information coming from recipients of funds, such as state governments. OMB chose NIEM as a candidate framework for building out reporting standards mainly because of feedback from states, he added.

Through using the NIEM, one agency has been able to document costs savings and a decrease in time. “This is not hard to understand,” Paul said.

“We’re talking about reusable information exchanges, so the extent [that] you can start from an existing exchange and extend it and leverage existing government frameworks, you’re going to be that much further along,” he said.

“We think we are scratching the surface with Data.gov,” he said. Currently, Data.gov is a metadata catalog that lets government partners and the public look at a broad set of raw data sets from agencies such as the Census Bureau or the Interior Department. There are also links to state and local government information.

OMB recently sent a Concept of Operations request to agency CIOs as well as the digital data, geospatial and research communities for feedback. The request is focusing on questions such as: How do you measure the value of information dissemination? What does the target technology look like? Should the government use a publish or prescribe model? Paul said.

Identity, credential and access management is an interesting area. Identity management is a cross- boundary issue. A lot of work has been done with Homeland Security Presidential Directive 12 and the Federal Public Key Infrastructure Bridge. However, everyone is still doing their own thing, Paul noted. As a result, a working group has actually used the Federal Segment Architecture Methodology, a step-by-step guide based on agency best practices for developing a segmented enterprise architecture, to look at the identity management problem. There has been one formal round of comments and some informal comments.

Having standards for business processes around identity management, understanding information exchanges, having an XML schema-based representation of those exchanges and having a consistent way of measuring performance are all key elements for identity, credentials and access management in a shared environment, Paul noted.

About the Author

Rutrell Yasin is is a freelance technology writer for GCN.

Reader Comments

Sat, Sep 12, 2009 MikePearsonNZ New Zealand

He's on the right track. Australia and New Zealand governments are jointly to standardise the definitions of the information businesses report to government, including standardising the terminology used in forms http://mikepearsonnz.amplify.com/2009/08/12/ausnz-sign-single-business-reporting-agreement/

Fri, Sep 11, 2009 Paul Wilkinson San Diego, CA

At least the FDIC and SEC have agreed upon the common XBRL format also used by Australia, China, the Netherlands, the UK, Spain, and other governments. Perhaps a next step would be to have FDIC and SEC reconcile the overlapping data from companies that report to both agencies, at least the identity data. Perhaps it's too ambitious, but for global companies reporting to multiple jurisdiction, regulators could make reporting even less expensive by reconciling common data fields.

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