State Puts Arms Race Online

The U.S. Department of State has developed an online portal where members of the U.S. arms control community will be able to search through volumes of information on treaties, terms of compliance, inspections and other data.

The Treaty Information portal will provide a single point of access to treaty information for hundreds of people stationed worldwide, whether they are in the Defense Department or part of delegations in Geneva, Switzerland; Vienna, Austria; or The Hague, Netherlands.

The department has been working for years to make those documents available electronically but has been stymied by poor search engines that made it difficult to sort through large volumes of text files. The new portal is based on RetrievalWare, a search engine developed by Excalibur Technologies Corp.

"We've been in this business since 1992 and went through several types of systems based on text retrieval, but we've never been able to tie them all together as we can do now," said Ned Williams, arms control data repository manager at the Bureau of Verification and Compliance, which oversees all matters relating to verification and compliance with international arms control nonproliferation, and disarmament agreements and commitments.

RetrievalWare is designed to index and retrieve information via the Internet and intranets. The technology enables people to search a wide range of distributed information resources, including text files, HTML documents, relational databases, various word processing and publishing systems, and groupware systems.The software can search sources by looking for specific concepts, keywords or information patterns and by query-by-example.

"Currently, they basically have diverse ways of getting information, not one global search," said Mark Myers, director of product marketing at Excalibur. "Our software ties all the pieces together...and adds a level of security, so for secure documents only certain individuals or groups can see them."

RetrievalWare's security features are based on the permissions assigned to people through the various file systems being used to store the information. When the documents are indexed, those preferences, usernames and passwords are also included so that only people with proper clearances get access to specific classified data.

The new portal, which should be available by Sept. 22, will be deployed on the Defense Department's Secret Internet Protocol Router Network, a worldwide secure intranet.

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