In the United States, government agencies and authorities exchange information using the XML-based framework NIEM (National Information Exchange Model).
The development and implementation of a NIEM-like framework has been suggested as desirable to SEMIC.EU by users.
We spoke to Paul Wormeli, Executive Director of the IJIS institute. The institute provides services in the development of the framework and business support for NIEM. In the interview, Mr Wormeli, a former White House advisor, founder of three companies and avid blogger, talks about the advantages of the framework and its origins in justice and security.
SEMIC.EU We understand that NIEM is based on a Memorandum of Understanding between the Department of Homeland Security and the Department of Justice. Can you briefly describe the development of NIEM?
Paul Wormeli The Bureau of Justice Assistance in the U.S. Department of Justice (DOJ) had created an advisory body to the Attorney General that included representatives of all the disciplines engaged in law enforcement and the administration of justice.
They recognized the need to improve information sharing across justice disciplines and created what was to be a common data dictionary that would establish some level of semantic interoperability across domains and jurisdictions in the U.S. What emerged was a data model known as the Global Justice XML Data Model (GJXDM) in which an object oriented model for data that supported most justice information exchanges was developed. It quickly attracted users in the justice space.
When the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) was formed, its leadership saw the need for a similar effort to facilitate information exchanges across the domains engaged in intelligence, border security, etc. Rather than reinvent the wheel as governments are prone to do, the DHS leadership moved to expand the GJXDM to be a cross-domain information exchange data model serving the additional domains beyond justice. By signing the memorandum of understanding, both DOJ and DHS agreed to co-develop a single data model that would become a National Information Exchange Model (NIEM) serving all domains engaged in law enforcement, justice, and homeland security efforts and also develop accompanying documentation and tools so that all engaged parties could benefit from a single model.
SEMIC.EU Why is it necessary to distinguish components and ?Information Exchange Package Documentation??
Paul Wormeli In the early days of building the model, the participants tended to focus on just adding data components without much regard for the business purpose they served. As people began to actually build information exchanges, it became apparent that we needed a methodology that could be consistently used to develop the exchanges. We wanted to create a methodology that (1) was driven by the business need for an exchange, (2) addressed conformance with the model in a consistent fashion, and (3) was sufficient for developers to move forward with implementation.
The XML Advisory Committee of the IJIS Institute created the Information Exchange Package Documentation (IEPD) standard as the answer to these objectives, and it rapidly was accepted as a usable framework for developing and implementing information exchanges. In a real sense, the IEPD became the specification for the implementation of an exchange. It served to show developers how to build the business case, determine the required data sets, map them to NIEM, and construct the schema using the tools available at www.niem.gov.
SEMIC.EU What is the role of the IJIS institute in the maintenance and further development of NIEM and the IEPDs?
Paul Wormeli The IJIS Institute is a non-profit consortium of IT companies formed at the request of the U. S. Department of Justice to engage industry in helping to improve information sharing in justice and public safety. Through the IJIS Institute, representatives from member companies have served on the national working groups and committees to create the model in the first place.
The DOJ funded the IJIS Institute as a neutral body to organize and run training programs to teach the methodology of IEPD development to public and private sector developers, to operate the help desk and the national clearinghouse of reference IEPD's, and to support various outreach and communications activities (including the content management of NIEM.gov and the NIEM News letter).
The government asked the IJIS Institute to bring together developers and users from both industry and government to create many of the early "reference" IEPD's which were to serve as examples that others could reuse or adapt to their needs in order to encourage widespread adoption and use of the NIEM standard. Some 150 IEPD's are publically available on the NIEM Clearinghouse website. The IJIS Institute facilitated and produced more than 40 of the original reference IEPD's and published them for anyone to use.
Cover of "The Wormeli Report", a market analysis publication for IJIS members.
SEMIC.EU What are the topics that data components / universal components and IEPDs cover? Are there any areas of public information that are not included?
Paul Wormeli As it stands today, NIEM is an intentionally overinclusive data model covering some 6500 data components designed to be used in support of information exchanges between disciplines and jurisdictions in 10 different communities of interest. The intent is to have selected and harmonized meaning of the data components sufficiently so that their reuse in cross-agency or cross-domain information exchange provides semantic interoperability. NIEM currently is designed to support and has had input from the following domains (communities of interest at the federal, state, and local levels):
CBRN (Chemical, Biological, Radiological, Nuclear)
(Youth and) Family Services
SEMIC.EU Based on your experience, do you consider a NIEM-like framework feasible for pan-European contexts as well, especially against the background of 23 different official languages in the European Union?
Paul Wormeli It has been reported that EuroJust used the GJXDM predecessor model to NIEM for the purpose of creating a pan-European information exchange related to criminal warrants that were to be exchangeable in the 23 active languages. At the time of this development, Eurojust reported that the use of GJXDM saved 50% of the cost and 50% of the time to market to get this work done. I have no data on how successfully this has been implemented, but the mere use of this approach to support improvements in information sharing seems not only attractive but feasible.
The potential contribution to improved information sharing across Europe by virtue of having harmonized standards for data components and a structure implemented in XML as a model would be enormous. Given the whole enterprise of the European Union, and the efforts to flatten borders and obstacles for economic as other interactions, there is no doubt in my mind that this kind of a pan-European standard would save an enormous amount of time, money and effort in building better forms of collaboration among EU participants.
Going beyond these substantial benefits, if there to be a comparable standard to NIEM developed for Europe that took into consideration building a higher and deeper level of collaboration with other nations such as the U.S., the potential benefits are almost beyond comprehension. Until there is a much more pervasive capability to exchange information about cases and intelligence that goes far beyond the laudable early efforts of Interpol and other international task forces, we will not likely have great success in combating those crimes that are distinctly international in their practice.
Crimes such as human trafficking, narcotics distribution, international organized crime, identify theft, and internet based child abuse as well as terrorism are all crimes that can only be reduced through very high levels of information sharing, and the technology of a standard such as NIEM with whatever modifications are needed to support international information sharing is critically needed in order to make global progress.
SEMIC.EU Thank you very much.
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