Though NBIC was created in 2004, it has not yet developed the system specifications defined in a CONOPS document. It needs to do so, said Lenert, for several reasons.
First, a CONOPS would define the National Biosurveillance Integration System (NBIS) within which NBIC operates. The workshop uncovered a great deal of information about how agencies communicate with each other, but it did not reveal a game plan for how NBIS operates. “We need an overall strategy for that,” said Lenert.
Second, a CONOPS would define the strategy with which NBIC adds value to NBIS. NBIC can add value in many different ways, said Lenert, but it needs to demonstrate its ability to do so.
Third, a CONOPS would define the rules of engagement of NBIC when using other participants’ data. Given that trust is essential in the communication of biosurveillance data, the rules of engagement need to be clear. “If the releases of information and the political perspectives aren’t represented within the concept of operations, the trust won’t exist and the information won’t flow.”
Finally, a CONOPS would define the information products NBIC produces. In turn, these information products would determine the usefulness of NBIC.
Goals and Outcomes
The goal of NBIS was to create a system where all relevant information was collected into a central fusion center, Lenert observed. There the information would be analyzed, producing a common operations picture that can inform decisions in partner agencies and the National Operating Center. This solution was largely based on technology, according to Lenert. The largest investments were in elaborate information systems that were supposed to integrate information. But the problem was not technological, said Lenert. It was “a communications and a trust problem across different organizations.”
The authorizing legislation for the Implementing Recommendations of the 9/11 Commission Act of 2007 established the primary mission of the NBIC as follows:
To enhance the capability of the Federal Government to (A) rapidly identify, characterize, localize, and track a biological event of national concern by integrating and