The fundamental requirement for the sharing of information among and between the many agencies engaged in the detection and prevention of terrorist acts, and/or in the response and recovery to such acts or major hazards, is that the exchange of critical information must be both accurate and provided in real time.  The management of major incidents often requires the ability to escalate the response to include other agencies and organizations from the disaster-management and emergency-management communities, as well as private-sector infrastructure providers – all of which will require active feeds of information on the status and disposition of the incident.

U.S. emergency-management systems and protocols, from pre-planning to incident command, must enable the sharing of critical information and intelligence about impending threats to public safety among the relevant government and private-sector organizations responsible for the prevention of, and response to, such threats.  

To meet this need, a new standard, the National Information Exchange Model (NIEM), has been created. NIEM is designed to support the numerous communities interested and involved in improving the U.S. ability to respond to and manage major incidents of all types, and is intended to become the standard of choice for facilitating information sharing between and among: the national intelligence community and law-enforcement agencies; police, fire, and EMS first responders; emergency and disaster-management agencies and departments; and the many other organizations that may at one point or another become involved.

It is envisioned that, as the NIEM program matures, a multitude of national priority scenarios will be developed in which the NIEM model will be able to facilitate the sharing of information across a multitude of organizational and functional boundaries.

An Historical Perspective

Through its Bureau of Justice Assistance (BJA), the Department of Justice (DOJ) established a framework for collaboration through what is called the Global Information Sharing Advisory Committee – Global for short. This gave way to the development of the Global Justice XML Data Model (GJXDM), an XML-based standard designed to support the sharing of information throughout and across the justice and public-safety communities.

The GJXDM is first and foremost a set of common terminology and definitions that can be used to link disparate computer systems and technologies. BJA led the development of this standard by encouraging local, state, tribal, and federal agencies to adopt standards – working in collaboration with industry – formulated by a diverse group of practitioners. As a result of this approach, there are now more than 200 GJXDM implementations throughout the United States.

Recognizing the success of the GJXDM initiative, as well as the success of technology-based information-sharing standards used in other government sectors, DOJ and the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) executed a Memorandum of Understanding to create the NIEM program as a way to provide broader capabilities for sharing information across multiple sectors. NIEM is an open standard that is technology-neutral and therefore can be used as the bridge to connect local, state, tribal, and federal information systems to share critical information in support of the operational missions of participating organizations.

The NIEM Program in Brief

In response to a recommendation in the 9/11 Commission Report, the Office of the Director of National Intelligence (ODNI) was created. The program manager for the Information Sharing Environment, which Congress created and placed within the ODNI, is in the process of echoing the importance of information-sharing standards and is seeking to use such standards as NIEM. Accordingly, the vision for NIEM is to become the national standard, by choice, for critical intergovernmental and cross-sector information exchange by communities essential to maintaining public safety and homeland security.

The principal goals of the NIEM program are straightforward and easy to state:

  • Improving justice, public safety, and homeland security;
  • Enhancing the quality of critical decision making among relevant government and private-sector communities; and
  • Providing an attractive standard for government and industry that increases efficiency and effectiveness, raises quality, and reduces the risks associated with the implementation of complex information-sharing solutions.

In concert with this vision, NIEM is intended to provide information-sharing capabilities in support of major incidents, as well as daily local operations that require multi-agency responses. All too often, these situations illustrate the challenges that public safety organizations are still struggling with when trying to effectively share information across disciplines and jurisdictions. Ironically, many citizens and government decision makers alike believe that organizations today can instantly share critical information at key decision points. This is often not the case, despite the fact that these capabilities are regularly portrayed in other areas of modern society in which decision makers can readily share information and effectively communicate.

Many Approaches to the Same Goal

Those working to develop capabilities for the sharing of information within and across public-safety and homeland-security disciplines know that their own situations may be considerably different. Although many organizations perform similar operational functions, their internal business processes are dissimilar, they typically use different emergency-response protocols and procedures, and most are dependent upon information-system solutions and technologies that do not interoperate with those of other agencies.  

To meet this challenge, NIEM can provide a national mechanism to provide public-safety and relevant homeland-security organizations with a standard for effectively and efficiently sharing information in a timely and secure manner, regardless of their fundamental differences in operations. First, NIEM provides a basis for addressing the nature and understanding of the information required to be shared between them. Second, NIEM provides a standard for accomplishing this without disrupting the internal operations and business practices of individual organizations.

The NIEM model already is facilitating information exchanges from state and local communities of interest, and providing the standards for implementation of shared services on a national basis. The goal is to facilitate the nationwide exchange of information among the many different organizations involved in preventing and responding to incidents threatening the nation’s safety and security.  An initial set of national priority exchanges have been identified and will be expanded through scenario-based planning with active and new constituent communities. Among the missions included on the list are: incident reporting; fusion center integration; case management; people screening; the reporting of suspicious activity; cargo screening; emergency and disaster management; the creation and maintaining of a terrorist watch list; and infrastructure protection.

NIEM Release 1.0 was moved into production in October of 2006 and is now available at to interested organizations for the analysis, design, and implementation of their information-sharing solutions. 

The NIEM Program Management Office (PMO) has been working across a number of governmental organizations and industry associations seeking interested early adopters for NIEM use, and invites all interested organizations to join in this initiative of national significance.

NOTE: Links for Additional Information:

Global Justice XML Data Model

Global Justice Information Sharing Initiative,

National Information Exchange Model (NIEM),

GJXDM/NIEM Presentation,

Thomas O'Reilly

Thomas O’Reilly serves as a Senior Policy Advisor for the National Criminal Justice Association. In this capacity he assists the U.S. Department of Justice, Bureau of Justice Assistance, and the Program Management Office of the National Information Exchange Model (NIEM) Program with information-sharing programs and also serves as the business and outreach director. A former administrator of the New Jersey Department of Public Safety, O’Reilly also has served as president of the National Criminal Justice Association, as vice chairman of the Global Project for the Department of Justice, and as a member of the NCIC Committee of the FBI Criminal Justice Advisory Policy Board.

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