Lieberman: Government needs plan for adopting XML

Sen. Joseph Lieberman, D-Conn., called on the Bush administration April 10 to develop a plan that would enable information sharing through governmentwide adoption of extensible markup language, or XML.

XML facilitates data sharing by tagging information so it can be read easily by different computer systems.

Lieberman, chairman of the Senate Governmental Affairs Committee, made the recommendation in response to a General Accounting Office report that analyzed the challenges of implementing XML.

The GAO report said:

*No governmentwide strategy exists for XML adoption. Without a strategy, agencies risk building systems that won't work with each other in the future.

*The federal government has not established a registry of government-unique XML data structures; and without a registry, developers are less likely to build systems using comparable data definitions, which would likely defeat the goal of broad data access and exchange.

*The federal government needs to ensure that agencies address XML implementation through enterprise architectures.

GAO recommended the Office of Management and Budget take the lead in addressing these and other issues that will improve the federal government's adoption of XML. The report's recommendations mirror requirements contained in S. 803, an e-government bill sponsored by Lieberman.

"We have at our fingertips technology that will greatly improve communication among the federal, state and local government agencies and among all Americans," Lieberman said, "but we will be unable to utilize it until a comprehensive strategy for its implementation is developed. I call on the administration to follow the recommendations of the GAO so we can take advantage of this important technology."

Provisions in the E-Government Act of 2002, introduced by Lieberman and Sen. Conrad Burns, R-Mont., would require better governmentwide management of XML initiatives.

The legislation calls for the administrator of a new Office of Electronic Government, in coordination with the National Institute of Standards and Technology, to develop a policy framework and set standards for the implementation of XML. The bill was approved by the Governmental Affairs Committee March 21.

If implemented broadly and consistently, XML can make it significantly easier for organizations and individuals to identify, integrate and process complex information that may initially be widely dispersed among systems and organizations. For example, law enforcement agencies could better identify and retrieve information about criminal suspects from federal, state and local databases, the GAO report said.

The GAO recommended that OMB, with the CIO Council and NIST, develop a strategy for governmentwide adoption of XML in order to guide agency implementation and ensure that the technology is addressed in agency enterprise architectures.

Guiding the overall process, GAO said, should be the presumption that mature, agreed-upon commercial standards will be adopted by the government whenever possible.

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