Defense data expert: Follow amazon.com's data sharing lead

Defense data expert: Follow <i>amazon.com</i>'s data sharing lead

Sharing information effectively requires more than interoperable systems; it requires gleaning knowledge from the data.

That's the opinion of Brig. Gen. Mike Ennis, the Marine Corps director of intelligence, who spoke at the Homeland Security and National Defense Symposium in Atlantic City, N.J.

"Interoperability begins at the data level, not the systems level," Ennis said. "Have a common language, common tagging. Data is our most important product."

The Defense Department should take a commercial approach, and follow examples of businesses such as Amazon.com, Travelocity.com and Mapquest.com, Ennis said, and the ways they search for knowledge. Databases for these sites go into several operating systems to tag and pull information for their customers. When data is collected, it needs to be authored in Extensible Markup Language and tagged, Ennis said.

This method is a quick way to get past the interoperability problems that plague DOD. Military systems often are unable talk to one another, and Defense agencies fare poorly in sharing information, Ennis said.

Sept. 11 illustrated both intelligence failures and process failures in interoperability, Ennis said.

"Most of the failures are intelligence failures," Ennis said. "But I think it's a process failure as well. There is an unwillingness on behalf of some agencies to share information. The information was out there, but we just didn't have access to all of the data to identify the trends and do an analysis."

This problem would be magnified in the Office of Homeland Security because each of the agencies that will make up the new office have separate databases'more than 20,000, Ennis said.

Lt. Gen. Peter Cuviello, the Army's CIO, said DOD officials must change their thinking. DOD focuses too much on which system data belongs to, he said.

"We shouldn't worry about that," Cuviello said. "Knowledge is not about having all the systems talk to each other, because you'll never get there. The only way to get there is for everyone to be using the same product."

Rather than having all Defense agencies use the same products, Ennis and Cuviello said, the key to sharing information is in searching for knowledge, pulling data, and tagging it so others can find, access and use it.


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