HOMELAND WATCH

FEMA loses XML effort

Several insiders say the Federal Emergency Management Agency's Disaster Management unit, in charge of developing XML applications for information-sharing among emergency managers, is moving into the department's Office of Interoperability and Compatibility in the Science & Technology Directorate.

That office assists first responders in making their radios compatible with other agencies, while FEMA's XML unit works with data interoperability. "The move makes sense," said an industry source.

Even so, it's yet another piece of FEMA getting stripped away; FEMA also loses its preparedness functions to a new directorate under Secretary Michael Chertoff's plan.

That move is getting some criticism because it contradicts the traditional "four pillars of emergency management" approach that links preparedness, response, recovery and mitigation.

Nothing to fear

The new National Plan for Research and Development in Support of Critical Infrastructure Protection sets a goal of fostering advanced IT architectures. It calls for more security in core operating systems, interfaces and protocols; more "resilient, self-diagnosing and self-healing" systems; and greater processing speeds and efficiencies.

"This goes beyond IPv6," said a high-level federal official who worked on the report. "But it's just a guidance document. We don't want to scare people."

A degree of demand

With security clearances becoming so desirable for federal defense and intelligence work, is a Top Secret clearance becoming as valued as a college degree? Michael Bernard, managing director of Kelly FedSecure, a temporary employment agency for cleared workers, thinks so.

"Having a clearance today is like having a bachelor's degree. You can still work without it, but if you want to get a decent job, you need it," he said.

Tens of thousands of IT employees are waiting for clearances, and probably hundreds of thousands more IT workers would apply if eligibility were less restrictive.

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