DNI offers roadmap for national security data sharing

Agencies get roadmap for security data sharing

The Office of the Director of National Intelligence’s Information Sharing Environment this month released what it called the first-ever roadmap for national security information sharing, a set of best practices for agencies and IT firms to synchronize data sharing in pursuing national security threats.

The model, called the Data Aggregation Reference Architecture (DARA), was developed over several years as a compendium of ways for agencies to share aggregate information to gain insights into potentially relevant intelligence data, said government executives involved the effort.

“The mission is improving the sharing and safeguarding of information across the whole of government,” said Kshemendra Paul, program manager of the Information Sharing Environment, in a recent video statement.

The Information Sharing Environment refers to the people, projects and agencies that enable information national security data sharing.

DARA would provide a reference architecture or model to the groups to blend their information sharing systems and practices. It addresses how to   “pull data sets together in a way that protects information security and protects the privacy of individuals who might be represented in that information,” said Paul.

The payoffs for agencies and teams using the plan include access to new analytics tools and access to data from other agencies in the national security establishment.

“When analysts are able to search correlated data that other agencies provide using the DARA framework, then organizations do not need to replicate information between systems, which saves storage space,  bandwidth and technical staff time across the entire federal enterprise,” according to the DARA plan.

The document is also aimed at the national security establishment’s industry partners, said Paul, to help them by laying out the roadmap for programs where they will be selling products and services.

Ultimately, DARA is a model for how agencies and firms can link pertinent information across rapidly circulating data streams. Managers of the program said the bigdata insights produced by the DARA roadmap will save lives.

The Senate Select Committee on Intelligence, for instance, reported that seven of the 14 separate intelligence failures that led to the Christmas 2009 “shoe bomber” incident were “directly related to limits in data interoperability, aggregation and correlation,” according to a  blog post last month by Michael Kennedy, PM-ISE Executive for Assured Interoperability.

“We recognize that harmonizing the entire federal government and mandating standards cannot happen overnight,” Kennedy said, “but the DARA takes an important step in that direction, by establishing consistency in understanding the issues involved, organizational expectations and terminology.

Kennedy outlined several goals of the just-released DARA guidelines, including:

  • Define the interoperability requirements for data aggregation enterprise investments.
  • Define a reference architecture that enables entity resolution, data correlation and disambiguation across multiple federal databases.
  • Specify what individual agencies need to do to embrace a federated approach and possible enhancements to their investments.
  • Serve as a broad, general reference architecture that guides the creation of more specific, concrete solution architectures.
  • Provide directions to identify what individual agencies need to do to embrace a federated approach and assess the possible organizational impacts.

Paul emphasized two key features of DARA, starting with its importance as a basic guide to interoperability. “When you talk about big data analytics, the big dirty secret is the prosaic issues of data plumbing: moving data sets, cleansing data, the basic extraction, movement and loading of information,” he said.

“What becomes a core issue is that different agencies, different trading partners, do it differently and that adds a lot of friction, adds a lot of point-to-point connections.”

The second take-away from developing the new reference architecture is its maturity model approach.

“Not every agency, not every program is in the same place in terms of their data management approach,” said Paul, including “their readiness to share information, to assure policy around security and to show agencies where they are on the continuum of maturity and what’s the road map for them to get better in the future.”

Paul encouraged agencies to download the DARA use it provide feedback. “Let us know where you have had successes and where there’s more work we can do to make the guidance that much more useful to you and your program,” he said.

About the Author

Connect with the GCN staff on Twitter @GCNtech.

Stay Connected

Sign up for our newsletter.

I agree to this site's Privacy Policy.