The Challenge

Emergencies and catastrophic events have consistently exposed the shortcomings of our government computer systems: they fail to efficiently share information across domains and jurisdictions. There are many documented cases in which an event’s impact could have been lessened or even averted if the right information had been in the right person’s hands. Fixing the problem is not trivial, for each government stakeholder operates with legacy technology, terminology, and data formats.

How do we cost-effectively build a bridge between these computer systems to share information for the improved public good?

The Solution

The National Information Exchange Model (NIEM).

Launched in 2005, NIEM is designed to be an answer to this problem. The standard helps to bridge government information systems and facilitate the sharing of information between them. NIEM provides a common language, a universal vocabulary, and a framework by which state, local, tribal, and federal government agencies may share data in emergency and day-to-day situations. NIEM standards create a cost-effective way to link government computer systems to share and exchange information regardless of the technology in use.

The concept behind NIEM and its core data exchange standards are proven. NIEM has been built upon the Global Justice XML Data Model (GJXDM), which has successfully linked justice and public safety systems for the past several years. NIEM extends the public safety and justice standards to support the intelligence, immigration, emergency management, international trade, infrastructure protection, and information assurance domains. Your agency can adopt NIEM now and begin to build information exchanges around this model.

NIEM is more than a technology

The NIEM xml data model – the “M” in NIEM—gets all the attention. And with good reason. XML technology was the key innovation in making efficient data exchange across disparate database applications and platforms a national reality. But NIEM as a program is much, much more:

Mutually-agreed data elements and definitions. Subject-matter experts from all around the country have spent years defining, vetting and refining standard tags and definitions for the pieces of information that we need to exchagnge. First name, last name, offense date, vehicle license plate, and over 5,000 other real-world objects. All in the model, with plain-English definitions to help you and your exchange partners agree on what to share.

The Model.Yes, the technology is pretty important. (Click image for larger view.)
All of those mutually-agreed elements are structured into a distributed data model, where each domain maintains data elements specific to a community of interest, like law enforcement, intelligence, emergency management, etc. And all those communities share a Core of reusable objects like Person, Event, Location that are common to the business of information sharing in all domains.

A Methodology that aligns technology with business drivers. (Click image for larger view.)
The good thing is that you’re not alone in putting the model to work. NIEM prescribes a standard methodology for defining and building Information Exchange Packages (IEPs) and their reference documentation (IEPDs) that put the model to work, exchanging real information to support real-world business processes and information-sharing needs in your community. The most important part of this methodology is that it begins and ends with business needs, defined by those professionals who rely on information –officers, judges, clerks, investigators and other subject-matter experts.

Tools, training and technical assistance. Companies like Sypherlink have developed entire products, tools and service offerings to help you get the most value from NIEM. Visit the IJIS Institute, at, for more information from this community of NIEM implementers.

And to help understand it all, and apply it to your agency’s specific needs, the program provides many training opportunities –online, in-person and in-house. Go to, and select “Training Opportunities” to learn about these opportunities.

A community of users, experts and technologists. NIEM is not just a federal-government program. It is a national effort that spans all levels of government, and an increasing breadth of program areas. Strategic direction is provided by an Executive Steering Council composed of federal, state and local executives. And more importantly, NIEM has a structure change-management process that is driven by a set of three committees that address the technical, business and communications/outreach issues that shape the program. These committees give NIEM real grass-roots involvement by experts who are on the ground, wrestling with information-sharing issues and challenges across the country on a daily basis. (Click image for larger view.)

The Bottom line: Reuse, reuse, reuse. The model, the IEP, the methodology.