September 23, 2015

ISE Blog: Project Interoperability In the Puget Sound

In the wake of September 11th the US government underscored the importance of information sharing and integration to prevent future major attacks. As the 9/11 Commission put it, “The importance of integrated, all-source analysis cannot be overstated. Without it, it is not possible to ‘connect the dots.’ No one component holds all the relevant information.” This need to share critical information and “connect the dots” became a driving force in our nation’s security strategy, as well as in the design of systems intended to support the diverse community charged with delivering this vital service. One place currently working hard to connect the dots is Puget Sound.

A jumbled technological landscape

The last decade featured many efforts toward creating systems to facilitate information sharing and interagency coordination. While national efforts strive to develop common ground for the diverse safety and security service community, investments in technology systems have generally produced a continually changing myriad of disconnected systems, often with specific and siloed purposes. These include a wide array of sensors (GPS, radar, satellite, camera), communication devices and dispatch systems (phones, radios, towers, mobile units), systems to provide a common operational picture, visual analytic tools to help identify actionable information, and architectures to support all these technology investments.

In recent years, efforts to make operational sense of this jumbled technological landscape have shifted from the impossible dream of a single system adopted by the hundreds of individual government agencies, to an enterprise architecture that would support (1) interoperability by linking the various sensors and data streams, and (2) community by managing the identity of system users and their entitlement to various levels of information.

ISE analysis

To support an enterprise approach and to better understand the existing information sharing environment landscape, PM-ISE, along with partners from the United States Coast Guard and the National Maritime Intelligence-Integration Office (NMIO), have invested in a related Maritime Operational Information Sharing Analysis (MOISA) project in Puget Sound. MOISA is in execution at the University of Washington’s Center for Collaborative Systems for Security, Safety, and Regional Resilience (CoSSaR), a multi-disciplinary facility and environment where professionals from a wide range of entities (federal, state, county, city, tribal, international, public and private) team with university experts to align strategies, processes and investments in systems for security, safety and resilience.

Common understanding through common standards

Project Interoperability in Puget Sound (PI/PS) seeks to link interoperability tools and concepts to mission requirements by building on the MOISA analytical work and CoSSaR state and regional expertise in the maritime domain and incident management in order to improve information sharing and safeguarding. Moreover, throughout this project, the tools and concepts rooted in PI/PS will be further refined to better meet mission need – serving as a model for community-driven interoperability that could be adopted by other geographic regions.

One such interoperability tool of particular interest to many communities, including incident management, homeland security, and law enforcement, among others, is Federated ICAM (Identity, Credential, and Access Management). Organizations across multiple departments and levels of Government (including Federal agencies, as well as State & Local entities) need to be able to exchange information with, and access services hosted by, their peers and partners. Each involved system must have a trusted way of verifying the identity of users accessing its information and services, and must have accurate information about those users on which to base access control (authorization) decisions. Historically this has been accomplished by users applying for and receiving accounts on each system independently, allowing each system to maintain a local list of users along with the required information for controlling access. As the need for information sharing across the SBU community grows, it is neither feasible nor scalable to manually provision each user requiring access to dispersed services and information resources. In addition, there are other factors beyond user attributes that come into play in mission-based information sharing. Federated ICAM presents an approach to addressing these issues and linking ICAM to operational mission requirements.

As a next step, PI/PS will link ICAM capabilities to mission accomplishment through an ongoing iterative design-build-evaluate cycle in support of the DHS S&T IMDE/CSS project. This work is being done in collaboration with SRI International and a diverse group of key ISE leaders of the Puget Sound security and safety operational community.

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