Justice to buy new data-sharing system

The Justice Department is laying the groundwork for acquisition of the National Data Exchange system, better known as N-DEx, which will form a 'card catalog' of criminal incident information from federal, state and local law-enforcement agencies.

Vance Hitch, the department's CIO, said today that N-DEx would take the form of a performance-based acquisition and form part of Justice's Law Enforcement Information Sharing Program.

Justice already has a vendor to provide support for the procurement, according to Hitch. Acquisition Solutions Inc. of Arlington, Va., confirmed that it had been hired for the purpose.

N-DEx will complement the Justice's existing program, known as the Regional Data Exchange System (R-DEx), which is designed to provide search engine-like access to federal, state and local law enforcement data.

R-DEx now is operating in a pilot in the Seattle area that pools data from the Law Enforcement Information Exchange program or LINX, a Navy-sponsored system that links 88 law enforcement agencies in the region with Justice information.

Both N-DEx and R-DEx help implement the department's part of the National Information Exchange Model, and incorporate technical standards such as the Justice Extensible Markup Language protocol for tagging data elements.

'In the law-enforcement world, terrorist incidents and information are not known as terrorist [related] upfront,' Hitch said. 'You only have that when you begin to connect the dots.' He explained how LEISP's various elements would link up with counterterrorism programs run by the Homeland Security Department, the Pentagon and other agencies.

Justice now is considering which regional information-sharing systems to link via R-Dex next. Hitch said the deputy attorney general Paul J. McNulty is reviewing several regional systems that could be connected, including:
  • the Automated Regional Justice Information System in the San Diego area;
  • the Citizen Law Enforcement Analysis and Reporting in the Chicago area; and
  • Similar systems in the Jacksonville, Fla., and Washington regions as well as Pennsylvania, among others.

'We felt it was important to hook up with existing regional systems,' Hitch said. 'R-DEx is here and now,' he noted, referring to the fact that systems integration work for the investigators' data store and toolbox already is in place.

'R-DEx is a federated search [tool],' Hitch said, contrasting it with N-DEx, which contains more limited information about criminal incidents. N-DEx could have as many as 200,000 possible users spread across all 18,000 law enforcement agencies in the country, he said.

R-DEx will assure data security partly by Secure Socket Layer encryption, according to information Hitch presented.

Hitch spoke at a breakfast meeting today sponsored by National Business Promotions and Conferences Inc.

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