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« Ontology And Why I Am Not Obsessed With This Fancy Little Overrated Word | Main | Ironman Australia, 2009 – Misplaced Delusions of Grandeur »

March 16, 2009


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Chuck Georgo

Hi Jeff,

With sincere apologies to Sean Connery, I am dismayed that people are still bringing a knife to an information sharing gun fight—the importance of information sharing, data discoverability, security protections, metrics and incentives, and empowerment have been documented many times over since I became involved in information sharing in 1999 and have proved to be of little value to making information sharing happen.

I believe a significant reason for this is that information sharing has been seen as the "main thing." Information sharing should NEVER be seen as the main thing; it is simply a means to an end. I have never forgotten what Scott McNealy of Sun Microsystems said—“The main thing is to keep the main thing the main thing.” And, the main thing for government is safe streets, clean air and water, a strong economy, etc…NOT information sharing.

The "guns" that we need to bring to the information sharing table are simply engaged executive leadership and accountability for mission results.

Of the many significant information sharing projects around the country that I have been a part of, I can tell you that the most important ingredient for successful information sharing is: “An agency executive who actively communicates an operational imperative for mission success and then holds their managers accountable for using information sharing as a critical enabler for achieving desired mission results.” [I have a few blog posts on the subject at http://www/]

While I agree that good security, good technology, good project management, good metrics and the like are necessary, none of this will matter if the need for information sharing is relegated two or three levels down the organization chart or is just seen as an edict from above—federal, state, and municipal agencies are already choking on multiple (and often conflicting and unfunded) mandates.

With my apologies to our President, the PM-ISE, and the Markle Foundation there is nothing more they can print on a sheet of paper to make information sharing happen—hundreds of executive orders, national strategies, task force reports, and security policies have been published—what more could they possibly say?

I believe it now comes down to the individual will of executive leadership in those federal, state and municipal agencies who hold the information that should be made shareable and their capacity to make it happen within their respective agencies. And that Jeff is the one area where I do believe that President Obama and our Congress can help—by simply ensuring that the people they choose to lead those agencies a) truly embody the will, character, and leadership qualities to achieve the mission and b) understand the value that information sharing brings to help make that happen.

r/Chuck Georgo


Jeff and Chuck--

As a Member of the Markle Foundation Task force on National Security in the Information Age, former Deputy Legal Adviser to the National Security Council, career CIA office and federal prosecutor, and information security and privacy lawyer, I couldn't agree more with the priority you place on leadership and holding people accountable. Though I'm speaking only for myself here, I strongly believe that this understanding is why the VERY FIRST recommendation in the latest Markle report is for the President and Congress to exert precisely that type of leadership.

That said, I know from personal experience two additional things:

First, it was not until quite recently that the COTS technology was easily and affordably available to fully enable our vital national interests -- protecting against another terrorist attack, systemic risk analysis to protect the economy, enabling the President's vision of fully electronicized (word creation alert) health care records -- that also fully protect our privacy and civil liberties. So, it's worth informing/reminding folks of that fact.

Second, having weathered the bureaucracies of three Administrations of both political parties, I can say with certainty that:

-- the need to inform new (or returning after eight years of technology and world change) policymakers at all levels of the key lessons cited in the Markle report is real and vital; and

-- unfortunately, the constant requirement to push back (like Sisyphus up the rock) the tireless arguments of the legion of recalcitrant bureaucrats, like "technology's not there," "privacy laws prevent it," etc., etc., etc., is, unfortunately, still a reality.

I think a careful read of the report Jonas cites will show that, in most ways, Chuck's note and the Markle report are in violent agreement.


Bryan Cunningham

Chuck Brownstein

Being able to locate, share and use in formation can make a difference only if information is "available" in the first place. Poorly concieved classification practices, and the proliferation of even more poorly concieved pseudo classification devices have grown to epidemic proportions since 2001. Until this is fixed, policies, technologies and metrics that miss this sad fact also will miss the mark.

Dave McDonald

An essential component of this national challenge can indeed be found in the technological and systems acquisition arenas. Leadership, accountability, strong cultural underpinnings and relevant processes and measure for sharing and collaboration are all important, of course - and should receive continual focus, as the Markle report outlines.

But, over the last decade or more we've architected ourselves into IP network and governance stovepipes across the fabric of USG organizations and these islands of IT capability conspire to thwart the best intentions of even the most enlightened senior leaders and mid-tier supervisors who might otherwise be inclined to open their organizational kimono and start building a culture of horizontal, community-of-interest-based sharing and collaboration. Part of the problem is the onerous regulatory environment that Congress has created -- essentially driving federal program planning, budgeting, systems architecture, systems engineering and technology acquisition processes into organizationally-bounded vertical structures. From stovepiped CIO and Senior Acquisition Executive (SAE) structures come stovepiped IP-based systems. No surprise.

A commenter above said the USG really can not put much more to paper that would move us in the direction of solving some of these intractable challenges. I'm not sure I agree. I think the next Markle study on this set of challenges should be about acquisition reform and taking a critical look at Clinger-Cohen (ITMRA) and the various OMB Circulars that drive these onerous, bureaucratic and "born-stovepiped" technology procurement models. It has been my sense for years, having watched these dynamics from the inside, that regulatory reform and acquisition reform are essential first steps to solving this.

Jeff Tobe

Jeff, I am trying to contact you regarding a possible speaking engagement. Please call me at 1-800-308-9034 ASAP.
Jeff Tobe
Infinite Speakers Agency

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