Universal Core (or UCore) is a U.S. government project to facilitate sharing of intelligence and related digital content across U.S. government systems.
Universal Core is an XML-based information exchange specification and implementation profile which provides a framework for sharing the most commonly used data concepts of Who, What, When, and Where. The purpose of UCore is to improve information sharing by defining and exchanging a small number of important, universally understandable concepts between data-sharing communities, without requiring complex mediations. The specification is modeled with an extensible XML schema, a taxonomy of high-level entities and events to categorize the concept of What, and supporting documentation and extension strategies. The current version is v3.0.
A key objective in creating UCore was to keep it simple, easy to explain, and easy to implement. UCore supports the National Information Sharing Strategy, a post-9/11 initiative. UCore is designed to permit "definable levels of interoperability" across user communities. To facilitate adoption, UCore looks to Communities of Interest, or knowledge domains, to encourage adoption of common vocabularies. UCore is not expected to replace complex data sharing within highly developed domains.
As of October 2012, the Department of Defense has elected to move towards adopting National Information Exchange Model (NIEM). The current version of UCore is expected to remain in place for as long as programs continue to use it, and will also support platforms that are somehow incompatible with NIEM. The way ahead for UCore 3.0, in light of a wider adoption of NIEM, is still under discussion.
UCore traces its roots to several predecessor initiatives:
- Department of Defense Directive 8320.1, which proposed a very large data model for all DoD systems.
- Department of Defense Directive 8320.02 proposed to implement interoperability around communities of interest, and found success within those communities.
- UCore Version 1.0 was issued in October 2007 with an emphasis on sharing terrorism information and a different name. This release focused on exchanging data between Department of Defense (DoD) and the United States Intelligence Community. On 17 April 2008, a memo titled "Department of Defense and Intelligence Community Initial Release of Universal Core (UCore)" was distributed, cosigned by their respective CIOs.
- Cursor on Target was a simple exchange standard that was used to share information about targets. Its loosely coupled design led to multiple implementations and was used to demonstrate interoperability of several systems with already fielded military software. Cursor on Target was originally developed by MITRE in 2002 in support of the U.S. Air Force Electronic Systems Center (ESC). Mitre first demonstrated Cursor on Target during a combined joint task force exercise in 2003, during which a Predator unmanned aircraft was able to operate in coordination with manned aircraft.
- UCore Version 2.0 was approved by ESC on 30 March 2009. This version added additional requirements from DoD, the Intelligence Community, Department of Justice, and the Department of Homeland Security. It incorporated concepts from Cursor on Target, and included cooperative agreements from participating agencies and communities of interest.
- The first annual conference on UCore was held on the MITRE Virginia campus in September 2009.
UCore Version 3.0 was released on 14 April 2012 and contains modifications approved by the UCore Council and enacted by the UCore Technical Working Group. In this release, UCore is a set of reusable data components (RDCs) for the four interrogatives, an entity-to-entity relationship model, and supporting metadata types. These RDCs can be the foundational building blocks of a custom Community of Interest (COI) vocabulary or information exchange specification. Developers who reuse the designated UCore types are expected to gain a minimum level of understandability and interoperability.
UCore 3.0 also defines a message format for Situational Awareness (SA) messages, which report upon the time and location of entities and events, often with a focus on mapping or recording location history. An instance of this SA message format will contain components which reuse the RDCs; however, a COI can still construct message payloads with the RDCs without making use of the SA message format.
The Defense Information Systems Agency is the Technical Agent for UCore, working on behalf of the DoD Chief Information Officer (DoD CIO).
UCore is managed by the United States Department of Defense, with input from the Office of the Director of National Intelligence (ODNI), the Department of Justice, and the Department of Homeland Security.
UCore Technical Governance Policy is not yet in place, but will address prioritization of UCore internal resources and process workflow within the organization. The UCore Executive Steering Council consists of representatives from partner agencies. The Steering Council has oversight authority and will foster adoption of UCore and collateral products and initiatives that are in keeping with the UCore Strategic Plan.
Conformance to UCore implementations can follow one of two paths or "profiles," based upon early community testing. The two paths lead to different levels of interoperability. The first involves adoption of the full framework, which is most useful for information exchange between new and legacy systems. A second profile, "Vocabulary Reuse," acknowledges that full UCore framework adoption is not always possible, but that UCore types could be used for data modeling and other purposes.
For validation, UCore relies upon a validation tool derived from ConTesA, developed by the Georgia Tech Research Institute. A UCore Conformance Test and Evaluation is also available from the Defense Information Systems Agency Joint Interoperability Test Command .
In addition to XML, UCore incorporates the following specifications and standards:
- Department of Defense Discovery Metadata Specification (DDMS). Existing DDMS global components are used to model some concepts in UCore.
- Intelligence Community Information Security Markings (IC ISM). These are used to identify the security level for data elements in documents and web services.
- Geographical Markup Language (GML) is an Open Geospatial Consortium XML grammar used to represent geospatial information. GML was adopted as ISO standard 19136:2007.
- Universal Lexical Exchange (ULEX) ULEX is a message framework originated by the Department of Justice which defines the message structure of a UCore message, including such concepts as a Digest, StructuredPayload, and RenderingInstructions.
- W3C Web Ontology Language (OWL) Web ontology language is a widely used ontology standard endorsed by the World Wide Web Consortium. It is used to model the What taxonomy.
- United Nations Economic Commission for Europe (UNECE) Recommendation 20. Recommendation 20 is a standard for describing units of measure.
Mandates and Recommendations
A joint 2008 DoD / ODNI Memorandum cites the availability of UCore's initial release. The Memorandum reinforces the connection between UCore and DoD 8320.2 "Data Sharing in a Net-Centric Department of Defense," and DoD 8320.2-G "Guidance for Implementing Net-Centric Data Sharing." 
Within the Department of Defense, the Marine Corps has explicitly mandated UCore for certain applications according to U.S. Marine Corps Order 5231.3.
While no OPNAV Instruction related to UCore appears to have been issued, the Navy has accepted a role as DoD lead and served as overall co-lead for the federal effort. The Space and Naval Warfare Systems Command is providing engineering leadership for Navy UCore initiatives.
The March 2009 acceptance of UCore by the Air Force ESC suggests a level of commitment from that service.
A letter from U.S. Strategic Command (USSTRATCOM) to the UCore Executive Steering Committee cited USSTRATCOM's sponsorship of UCore from UCore 1.0 through a UCore pilot completed in 2006.
The Universal Core Working Group chartered in April 2007 included DoD lead representative Daniel Green. Green discussed the goals and challenges of the Group in a 2008 Masters thesis for the Naval Postgraduate School. While Green remained with the project through the release of UCore 2.0 in April 2009, the thesis offers additional insight into UCore tradeoffs, challenges to technical adoption, and strategies adopted to cultivate involvement of various intelligence agencies.
UCore Semantic Layer (UCORE-SL)
UCORE-SL was an effort sponsored by the US Army Net-Centric Data Strategy Center of Excellence to augment the UCore Taxonomy with logical definitions for each term or relation defined within. This effort targeted UCore 2.0, which is now deprecated.
- United States Intelligence Community Information Sharing Strategy, Office of the Director of National Intelligence, February 22, 2008. Retrieved 24 September 2009.
- "DoD adopts NIEM, will no longer support UCore development", October 27, 2012
- DoD Directive 8320.1 "DoD Data Administration," 26 September 1991, Retrieved 24 September 2009.
- DoD Directive 8320.02 "Data Sharing in a Net-Centric Department of Defense," 2 December 2004. Retrieved 24 September 2009.
- "Common Terrorism Information Sharing Standards (CTISS) Program Manual, version 1.0" October 2007. Retrieved 24 September 2009.
- Department of Defense and Intelligence Community Initial Release of Universal Core (UCore). Retrieved 24 September 2009.
- Paone, Chuck. "Hanscom to host Cursor on Target users meeting next week," Air Force Material Command News, 16 September 2009. Retrieved 24 September 2009.
- Robbins, Doug. "Unmanned Aircraft Operational Integration Using MITRE's Cursor on Target," MITRE's The Edge, Summer 2007. Retrieved 24 September 2009.
- DoD CIO C2 Research Program Description, - UCore, Assistant Secretary of Defense (Networks & Information Integration). Retrieved 24 September 2009.
- UCore Users Conference Announcement - September 23-24, 2009, UCore.gov. Retrieved 24 September 2009.
- ConTesA Conformance Testing Assistant, Georgia Tech Research Institute. Retrieved 24 September 2009.
- JITC UCore Conformance Test and Evaluation Facility. Retrieved 7 December 2010.
- "Department of Defense and Intelligence Community Initial Release of Universal Core (UCore)", DoD Memorandum, 17 April 2008. Retrieved 28 September 2009.
- United States Marine Corps Order 5231.3, Order from Commandant of the Marine Corps, 7 April 2009.
- Green, Dan. "Universal Core -- Improving Sharing Across the Government", CHIPS, Space and Naval Warfare Systems - Atlantic, July-Sept 2009. Retrieved 28 September 2009.
- James F. Caldwell, Deputy Commander, JFCC GS. Memorandum for the Chair, UCore Executive Steering Committee, U.S. Strategic Command/JFCC-GS, facsimile on transmitted 7 March 2006. Retrieved 28 September 2009.
- Green, Daniel M. Net-Centric Information Sharing: Supporting the 21st Century Maritime Strategy, Masters thesis, Naval Postgraduate School, September 2008. Retrieved 29 September 2009.
- Universal Core Community Website
- Jeremy Warren. "NIEM, LEXS and ULEX", U.S. Department of Justice, EA Conference, 9 September 2009. Retrieved 24 September 2009.
- National Strategy for Information Sharing U.S. Office of the Director of National Intelligence. Retrieved 23 September 2009.
- U.S. Intelligence Community Information Sharing Strategy, UCore.gov, 22 February 2008. Retrieved 24 September 2009.
- Daconta, Michael. "UCore: The Twitter of Information Sharing", Government Computer News, 10 June 2009. Retrieved 24 September 2009.
- "Guidance for Implementing Net-Centric Data Sharing", Department of Defense Guide, Information Management Directorate Assistant Secretary of Defense for Networks and Information Integration, DoD CIO, 12 April 2006. Retrieved 28 September 2009.
- Smith, Barry et al. "Universal Core Semantic Layer", National Center for Ontological Research, University at Buffalo. Retrieved 14 February 2013.
- Smith, Barry. "Universal Core Semantic Layer" Presentation, National Center for Ontological Research, University at Buffalo, 11 October 2009. Retrieved 14 February 2013.