Information sharing driving homeland projects

Homeland security projects rest squarely on a base of information sharing for improved effectiveness, according to several officials who spoke today at FOSE.

Rose Parkes, the line of business CIO for the Emergency Preparedness and Response Directorate of the homeland department, highlighted the role of information sharing in the SAFECOM program to ensure interoperable communications among first responders.

Parkes said the Homeland Security Department and the Justice Department's Community Oriented Policing Services Program jointly plan to issue grants totaling $50 million in fiscal 2003 to support information sharing at its most basic level'among first responders at disaster scenes and other incidents.

'There isn't enough money to solve this problem,' Parkes said, 'but there is enough money to begin to solve this problem.'

The homeland department is working to develop grant guidelines for interoperable communications systems based on open standards, Parkes said.

The homeland department's EPR Directorate also is fostering information sharing via its Disaster Management Interoperability Services program, which provides a basic toolset of emergency response applications to state, local and tribal organizations.

So far, 19 states have adopted DMI Services, Parkes said.

The program largely is based on the Army Knowledge Online system, a much larger application that links hundreds of thousands of service members and Pentagon employees.

'We have a platform that gives us scalability,' Parkes said. 'We have leveraged a $30 million investment the Army made.'

DMI Services allows first responders and disaster managers to share information via several tools, including a geographic information system, an instant messaging capability and an incident log.

Also in the field of information sharing, Jo Balderas, chief executive officer of YHO Software Inc., described the Dallas Emergency Response Network, an FBI project.

The Dallas network is an FBI project that the bureau started in the months before September 11, 2001 and greatly expanded after the terrorist attacks.

The system ties together nine Texas state agencies, about 40 federal agencies, more than 540 police departments and more than 300 fire departments, Balderas said.

The Dallas ERN relies on a Web site linked to a Structured Query Language database running under Linux to funnel information to law enforcement officers and alert the public to emergencies. The system uses secure sockets layer security.

'We created a vehicle for the general public to submit anomalies,' Balderas said. The FBI has opened more than 200 cases based on leads submitted through the Dallas ERN, she said.

The Dallas system also links to private sector corporations, allowing them to access information about infrastructure vulnerabilities. 'It is a mature tool,' Balderas said. 'We have been using it since July 2001.'

The Dallas system can alert first responders by cell phone or pager, can generate 6,000 automated outgoing calls each minute and receive 30,000 incoming calls each minute, Balderas said.

In an emergency situation affecting a specified geographic area, the system could call only the fixed and cellular phones in the affected area.

Users can access the Dallas ERN system via www.fbiern.org.

Judy Gross, section manager in the National Security and Non-proliferation Department, Nuclear Engineering Division, of Argonne National Laboratory, described how her laboratory built an automated system for corporations to submit information to comply with the Energy Department's Foreign Ownership, Control or Influence rules.

Federal law in some cases requires Energy Department contractors and vendors to some other agencies, such as military agencies and the State Department, to assure the government that they are not owned or influenced by foreigners.

The e-FOCI system comprises three parts: a Web site for contractors to submit FOCI packages online, a FOCI Operations Manager Processing Site to help DOE employees determine the validity of submissions, and an analytical tools module that Argonne still is developing.

Gross said Argonne would make the e-FOCI software available to other federal agencies that seek to automate this national security process.

David Forslund, a laboratory fellow at the Los Alamos National Laboratory, described the Bio Surveillance Analysis, Feedback, Evaluation and Response project at his laboratory.

B-Safer is intended to build applications in Java that allow sharing of medical information and the standardization of patient records.
The system has applications in public health and response to biological terrorist attacks, Forslund said.

'The goal is to have a medical record as a collaboration document,' Forslund said. 'Right now, the information is stored in different places, and we need a common data model and functional data sharing.'

Forslund said the notion of medical information data sharing had advanced farther in Europe and South America than in the U.S. Forslund said many hospitals and medical system vendors in the United States are reluctant to share data because doing so limits their proprietary data rights and advantages.


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