This document describes the Information Sharing and Safeguarding (IS&S) Core Interoperability Framework (ICIF) that serves to enable wide-scale interoperability and trust within the Information Sharing Environment (ISE).  The ICIF is part of a broader effort called "Information Sharing Initiative " or ISI, as depicted in the diagram below.

ICIF in the Context of Information Sharing Initiative 2.0 ICIF in the Context of Information Sharing Initiative


The purpose of ISI, a collaboration between the Standards Coordinating Council (SCC) and the Program Manager for the Information Sharing Environment (PM-ISE), is to promote the development of ISEs between federal, state, local, tribal, and private sector mission partners at the domestic nexus of national security and public safety. Further, ISI advocates for particular standards and technologies most likely to achieve the desired information sharing results and future compatibility between those ISEs.

ISI achieves its mission through an integrated suite of technical and operational resources and expertise facilitating the planning, development, and optimization of ISEs to share counterterrorism and other mission-critical information.  As mentioned, those resources include the ICIF, discussed in detail in the pages that follow, and the ISE Integration Library detailed in the diagram below which features, among other resources, a 15 point ISI Playbook for those seeking to establish an ISE.  Additional information about ISI is accessible via

Purpose and Scope of This Document

In this document, we lay out a vision for the ICIF and describe how the ICIF can help to facilitate trust and interoperability for a wide range of information sharing transactions across the entire ISE. We cover the fundamental challenge that the ICIF is designed to solve, as well as the design philosophy and core capabilities of the ICIF and its Assertion-Based Architecture (ABA) and the technical framework that underpins the ABA.

Executive Summary

The Problem

The terrorism-related IS&S landscape has changed rapidly in recent years, and effective counter terrorism depends on effective information interoperability: the ability to transfer and use information in a consistent, efficient way across multiple organizations and IT. From a technical perspective, interoperability is achieved through the consistent application of principles and standards to address a specific mission problem.  This is key in the nation’s counterterrorism efforts, and has other broad applications as well for the public and private sectors.

This new landscape asks counter terror officials to go "horizontal in a vertical world" of threats.  This requires a new way of thinking and coordinating across many stakeholders from many different communities, including:

  • Federal, state, local, territorial, and tribal government agencies in the U.S.;
  • Private companies and other organizations that own and manage certain critical data (e.g., healthcare data) and/or other resources (e.g., critical infrastructure such as power grids, oil and gas refineries and pipelines, etc.);
  • Foreign governments; and
  • Pre-existing federations, consortia, and other communities of interest who can play an active role in counter-terrorism and criminal justice.

The Solution: ICIF

Recognizing the robust challenges that face these entities, including limited funding, cultural and legal boundaries, and other mission priorities, any proposed information sharing solution must be distributed and decentralized, agile and easy to implement, low cost, scalable, and dual-use.

The ICIF is a “context-neutral” IS&S framework that is designed to provide technologists with the resources to enable responsible information sharing. Inherent in the framework is a taxonomy of interoperability components, including common profiles for policy automation, data semantics, and services instantiations that can be used to conjugate “context-specific” (mission centric) IS&S applications. The ICIF is developed and stewarded by the ISI program, where an assembly of industry, standards development, engineering and government practice organizations work together under the direction of the Standards Coordinating Council (SCC). Implementation of context-specific ICIF-based IS&S implementations will form the real world references of best practice and normative use of the ICIF framework that will drive continued refinement of IS&S standardization.

The ICIF offers these benefits through two components: The first component is a set of pre-existing, externally published and externally vetted technical and policy sources that serve to define a core set of interoperability and trust requirements for ISE participants.  It includes sources related to security, privacy, identity assurance, data payload formats and semantics, protocol standards and profiles, and other topics that relate to and underpin trust and interoperability, including, e.g., NIST SP 800-53, NIST SP 800-63, FICAM, NIEM, SAML, GML, and others.

The second component is an Assertion-Based Architecture (ABA): a technical framework that enables the wide-scale use of lightweight digital assertions to convey trusted statements about ISE participants' compliance with sources.  The ABA anticipates and addresses the obstacles that we have noted previously with respect to scale, cost concerns, agility, and flexibility.

The ICIF does not force ISE participants to make wholesale changes to the design or architecture of their internal systems and networks — although forward-thinking agencies may choose to embrace and leverage the ICIF's assertion-based philosophy as a tool for transforming their internal IT architectures to realize certain benefits that they cannot realize otherwise.

Intended Audience

The primary audience of this document includes anybody who plays an operational role related to the sharing and safeguarding of sensitive information on behalf of an organization within the Terrorism-Related ISE (TR ISE). This includes, but is not limited to executives, CIOs and CTOs, policy leads, operational leads/supervisors, and operators (agents, analysts, etc.) Representatives from ISE stakeholder agencies should visit this page for specific recommendations on how to best use this document, based on the operational role played. This document may also provide value to IT vendors that want to better understand how to position their products and services to better serve the needs of ISE stakeholders.