I had the pleasure of attending a briefing today on the Virtual Alabama (VA) Project. Jim Walker, Director, Alabama Department of Homeland Security, and Chris Johnson, VA Project Manager gave a full blown, real-time demonstration of VA’s capabilities. While just seeing Google Earth Enterprise technology is cool in itself, what was really astonishing was to see how the project has worked to get access to an amazing number of data sources–they have engaged over 1,100 agencies in implementing information sharing accross the state!
Driven by specific business needs, the VA project now supports law enforcement, fire, emergency management, business and economic development, property tax assessment, port security, emergency evacuation, and they’re only into the project about 10% (their number). Other states would do well to take a look at what they’ve done in about 18 months for about $500,000 with a team of four people. And, don’t focus solely on the specific technology they chose–the real lesson here is what they did to get Alabama agencies to share their data! This is the true accomplishment.
I hope the project can find time write up and share a white paper to document the various strategies they employed to get access to the data–arm twisting, the shame game, Friday afternoon strategy sessions at local watering holes, etc.
Here’s a YouTube movie about it: Google Earth Enterprise Case Study: Virtual Alabama
Today, the Office of the Director of National Intelligence (ODNI) released a new federal policy [document] that aims to increase terrorism related information sharing among members of the Intelligence Community (IC). The policy “directs agencies to work with their human resources departments to add items about information-sharing skills and behaviors to performance appraisals.”
The release of this policy effectively means that the sixteen politically appointed IC agency heads, all of their deputies, the hundreds of senior executive department heads, and thousands of mid-level division managers failed in their efforts to get their folks to share. I guess the thinking is that adding a sentence of two to the performance appraisal of each of the 200,000+ individuals in those agencies will make information sharing happen–wow, what a sad commentary to the failure of leadership in these agencies.
To me, information sharing is a “means to an end” and NOT an end in itself. Before you can say that you do not have sufficient information sharing, you should be able to say (specifically) what the impact of not having that information is to your mission activities. The diagram below illustrates a Knowledge Model (similar to one that I picked up during my work at NSA).
As you can see from the diagram–information leads to knowledge of “something”, and that something causes (or requires) specifc action, and the specifc action leads to “real-world-effects” (like the prevention or disruption of terrorism or other criminal activity). Some examples of impact statements include:
- ”We are unable to ascertain the threats to water supplies in the city of xxx…”
- ”We cannot determine the whereabouts of bad guy xxx…”
- ”We do not understand the objectives of the xxx threat group…”
If you follow my logic so far, then you also have come to the conclusion that the lack of information sharing is really a management issue, driven by internal agency data sharing and security policies and should not be left to the purview of individuals within those agencies. Here are a couple other points to ponder in support of this thought:
1. I believe information sharing should primarily be implemented through technological mechanisms; take it out of the hands of agency individuals and political culture.
2. it should also be driven by MISSION needs and NOT just for the sake of sharing; many analysts will tell you we share TOO much irrelevant information and NOT ENOUGH of the stuff they really need.
3. No single individual in any agency should have the ability to withold information from another agency; if this is the case, there’s a manager somewhere who requires some alignment.
4. If individuals do hold back information, they do so against the will of their leadership (assumingly); most agency employees are loyal and will follow (to a fault sometimes) their manager’s will.
Comments and thoughts welcomed…r/Chuck
LInX is the Naval Criminal Investigative Service’s Law Enforcement Information Sharing Project. Those of you that know me know that I was an architect of the LInX approach and a project manager for many of the LInX locations over a five year period. What many don’t realize is that LInX was started by the Navy with a mere $50,000 purchase order. Through what was a largely grass-roots efforts by state and local law enforcement executives, fueled by the leadership of John McKay (one of the fired U.S.Attorneys) and Dave Brant (former NCIS Director), LInX has grown to a nearly $100 million dollar project in nine major regions around the U.S.
What’s particularly interesting about this whole saga is that when John took this information sharing success story to his leadership and offered it up as a “proven approach to nationwide information sharing,” they put the politics of internal DOJ projects ahead of the needs of state and local law enforcement and in the process took a good man down.
Unfortunately, they saw LInX as a competing ”IT system” and not as what I and others believed–that LInX really was ”a proven and standardized process for organizing, implementing, and evaluating regional law enforcement information sharing.” I and others believed the LInX approach could have been implemented with many of the other IT systems currently in use around the country at that time (or being developed) for information sharing. We also recognized that LInX was not a threat to any of the national-level systems being developed by DOJ (or DHS) and, in-fact, (as DOJ would attest to today) are now convinced that those national efforts CANNOT succeed unless LInX-like information sharing projects are quickly replicated in other parts of the country.
While I am sure the final chapter in the U.S. Attorney firings has yet to be written, my hope is that the recently released report will help us to move past federal politics and realize that the true victims here are the state and local law enforcement agencies who were cheated out of a proven approach to enabling the electronic sharing of each other’s law enforcement records–let’s give the LInX approach (and what John and Dave started) its due and develop a formal project to make the process available to other’s who are still struggling with getting it done. I’ve summarized the LInX approach below.
STEPS IN THE LINX APPROACH—It is NOT about the technology.
Strategy – Develop a regional law enforcement plan detailing areas of concern and how to leverage information sharing for the desired impact.
Governance – Establish an information sharing governance infrastructure that gives each participating Chief Executive Officer an equal vote on all matters pertaining to the regional LInX system.
Data – Identify and agree to integrate ALL relevant data. The key to success is sharing more not less information.
Capabilities – Provide easy to use query and analysis tools, with multi-levels of security. LInX is a system developed by law enforcement personnel for law enforcement personnel. Feedback from user groups and the flexibility to make enhancements to the system keeps the LInX system robust and valuable to the community.
Technology – The LInX system is built with open standards and leverages existing technology to integrate diverse systems. An open standards architecture that is flexible, scalable, sharable, and possess the ability to enhance current systems interfaced with.
Full Support – There are some requirements for the participating agencies. The goal is to have minimal impact on a participating agency’s resources, however, there is a need to support user training, system administration, and maintenance.
Evaluation – Conduct formal evaluations to assess achievement of desired impact. The LInX system is being developed to enhance law enforcement utilizing technology to assist the investigator and patrol officer.
I just finished reading through Thomas Erl’s latest book SOA: Principles of Service Design. It is a great read for those getting involved in Service Oriented Architecture, yet one thing he doesn’t adress head-on is where does Enterprise Architecture end and SOA begin? All he says is that “SOA spans BOTH enterprise and application architecures.” - not much help.
With apologies to every organization that’s invested boatloads of money in developing an EA, I’m starting to believe EA in general is dead. Why do I think it’s dead? In my eight years of doing EA, I have yet to see an EA effort that meets my five criteria for success:
- EA championed by senior executive from start to finish
- EA addresses all levels–business needs, systems capabilities, technical standards
- EA development followed through to produce at least one full iteration of products
- EA products integrated in to systems acquisition and operational planning processes
- EA success evaluated based on achievement of real business results
Because of this, organization’s are growing weary of their EA efforts – I have seen many EA efforts come to a screeching halt recently. And, with EA on life-support, in comes SOA–tada!
Tell me what you think…r/Chuck
Today’s blog is about “information sharing” – it’s all the rage! You can’t pick up a trade magazine or newspaper without reading about it. Every agency wants to do it. Want better national security? Community safety? You’ll need effective data sharing to be successful. Even though the technology and processes exist to make it a reality, most projects are still missing the most critical success factor of all…namely, THE DATA.
After studying data sharing projects for more than eight years, I found that every data sharing project is still missing information critical to addressing operational goals. What’s needed is a strategy to address the political and cultural issues surrounding data sharing efforts so that those who hold the data feel comfortable and willing to share ALL of their data.
I’m currently working on a set of tools to help address this problem. The tool kit will include:
Five critical success factors for getting agencies to give-up all of their shareable data
Three ways to deal with executives on issues of trust, security and privacy
How to use a “shift-the-burden” strategy for dealing with politics and culture
if you’re interested in collaborating on this with me, email me … email@example.com