GAO answers XML report critics

'We have at our fingertips technology that will greatly improve communication among government jurisdictions and all Americans.'

'Sen. Joseph I. Lieberman

The lead author of a General Accounting Office report on the Extensible Markup Language is working to build bridges to a vendor group that criticized the report.

In its April 5 report, GAO said the lack of uniform, government-specific data structures dims XML's promise of easily reusable content . The director of the Office of Management and Budget should oversee federal planning for XML adoption, GAO said.

Sen. Joseph I. Lieberman (D-Conn.), who commissioned the GAO report, called on the Bush administration to develop plans for information sharing and technology transfer among agencies.

Better communication

'We have at our fingertips technology that will greatly improve communication among government jurisdictions and all Americans,' said Lieberman, chairman of the Senate Committee on Governmental Affairs. 'But we will be unable to utilize it until a comprehensive strategy for its implementation is developed.'

GAO's XML recommendations largely coincide with the interagency collaboration mandates of the E-Government Act of 2001, S 803, which Lieberman's committee has sent to the full Senate for consideration.

Chuck Allen, director of the HR-XML Consortium Inc. of Raleigh, N.C., criticized the GAO report for ignoring the full scope of the consortium's work on XML standards for personnel records and transactions.

GAO then acknowledged that 'in the future, federal agencies may be able to use HR-XML to exchange data related to functions such as staffing exchange, payroll transactions, compensation and background checking.'

Working together

David L. McClure, GAO's director of IT management issues, said in an April 11 letter to Allen that he hopes the HR-XML group will work with federal personnel officials on XML data structures.

'Our optimism regarding these potential uses was based on our understanding that the consortium was working to develop standards in these particular subdisciplines,' McClure said.

McClure noted that his office met last December with representatives of the federal Human Resources Data Network, and it had approved only two HR-XML data definitions.

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