Global Reference Architecture (GRA)

globalThe Global Reference Architecture (GRA) is an information exchange solution designed to cut 80% of implementation time and costs for state and local justice agencies by reusing established promising practices in IT architecture and design.

Think of it as a “flexible blueprint” for helping organizations implement interoperable data sharing services. (Just as NIEM focuses on semantic interoperability, the GRA focuses on other necessary layers of interoperability, such as data transport, message reliability and security, governance and service implementation.) 

GRA solutions are made up of a combination of a connection method (Web Services), an exchange language (NIEM is encouraged), and the security specifications (encryption). These specifications are “packaged” into a GRA solution that is customizable to an organization’s needs. 

SEARCH has been a leader in developing GRA since its inception and has facilitated GRA implementations in Hawaii and Maine.  In addition, SEARCH staff chairs the Global Services Task Team, which creates new reference specifications to provide the opportunity for reuse in the field, and reviews GRA implementations that have the potential for reuse by other agencies. 

The GRA is a complex and involved set of specifications and guidelines. Our expertise can make your GRA adoption go more smoothly and quickly, because we can isolate and target your jurisdiction’s critical needs. Use our assistance and resources to help you identify, develop, implement and govern services using the GRA.

NOW AVAILABLE! Free, self-paced online training in the Global Reference Architecture!
This training helps stakeholders like you gain a common understanding of the GRA standards, tools, methods, and processes. It is interactive and scenario-based, and allows you to immediately put knowledge into action—whether you’re an executive, senior manager, GRA project manager/coordinator, or implementer.


Open Justice Broker Consortium

ojbc-logoEarly adopters of GRA solutions—in particular, the states of Hawaii, Maine, and Vermont—have implemented key capabilities built using open source solutions. These states have shared these capabilities among themselves, significantly reducing their collective costs and cutting the time required to make the exchanges operational. 

The OJBC members have created and evolved the following solutions:

  • Streamlined Federated Query. The OJB includes a powerful federated query engine that allows users to specify a search once, disseminate the search to multiple data sources, and aggregate the results into a single, streamlined response. The State of Hawaii uses this capability to provide practitioners with one-click access to warrant and criminal history information.
  • Security and Single Sign-on. Federated identity management supports single sign-on access to multiple services, improves security, and eliminates costly centralized user account mechanisms. It also is the foundation for automated privacy policy and access control enforcement. The States of Hawaii and Vermont are leveraging this capability to secure their federated query implementations.
  • Real-time Subscription-Notification. The OJB includes a flexible subscription/notification engine that allows practitioners to subscribe—automatically or manually—for notification of specific justice events. For example, the State of Hawaii is using this capability to create subscriptions for re-arrest of probationers and parolees. The subscriptions are generated automatically out of probation and parole case management systems, and the notifications are delivered to officers in real-time via email, allowing them to coordinate with law enforcement and take other appropriate action immediately.
  • Incident Reporting. The OJB facilitates sharing of law enforcement incident information at the local, state, and Federal level, by extracting incident information out of a records management system, sending the information to the broker at the state level, and routing charging documents to local prosecutors and incidents to the FBI’s National Data Exchange (N-DEx) system.
  • Web Portal. The OJBC web portal provides users with the ability to perform federated queries against multiple data sources and to review query results with entity resolution applied. The portal also takes advantage of federated identity management capabilities of the OJB. This means users can gain access to the portal using existing login credentials. The states of Hawaii and Vermont are currently using the portal to enable federated queries of criminal history records, warrants, incident reports and firearm registrations. Both states are also taking advantage of the federated identity management aspect of the portal to control user access to the portal and provide users with single sign-on capabilities. 

Service Oriented Architecture

soaThe GRA provides guidance on how to plan and design IT solutions based on service oriented architecture (SOA). SOA is the mainstream approach for sharing information and capabilities between autonomous business organizations—while maintaining as much of their independence and autonomy as possible. That is, it allows multiple systems to share information, but in a way that still allows the systems to change independently. To this end, the GRA focus is on interoperability at the system interface, rather than within the systems themselves.

In 2004, Global identified SOA as the recommended approach that justice information sharing projects should adopt as their main strategy in its report A Framework for Justice. Information Sharing: Service-Oriented Architecture

Additional Resources

View or download these SEARCH Technical Briefs, which provide information and context on SOA and GRA:

Read this GRA success story featuring SEARCH and the Maine State Police

Web Services

internetAs justice and public safety practitioners use NIEM to represent the semantics of their information exchanges, they also must address how they will transport the information between systems in a way that ensures interoperability and conformance with open standards.

The Web Services stack of industry standards provides a flexible, comprehensive, and standards-based approach to messaging. 

SEARCH has extensive expertise working with Web Services standards. Team members served as lead authors on the GRA’s Web Services Service Interaction Profile and customized Web Services strategies for a number of states. 

The SEARCH team also has provided technical assistance to jurisdictions developing Web Services specifications for NIEM-conformant exchanges, and prototyped these exchanges using open source tools.

Additional Resources

What is Global & GRA?

The Global Justice Information Sharing Initiative is a “group of groups”—including SEARCH—that advises the U.S. Attorney General on justice information sharing and integration initiatives. Its mission is to support the efficient exchange of pertinent justice and public safety information. It promotes standards-based electronic information exchange to provide the justice community with timely, accurate, complete, and accessible information in a secure and trusted environment.

GRA’s mission is to enhance justice, public safety, homeland security and other stakeholders via a service-oriented approach to information sharing that improves cross-community collaboration.

Karen Lissy

Ms. Karen Lissy is a Justice Information Services Specialist for the Law and Policy Program of SEARCH, The National Consortium for Justice Information and Statistics. In this position, she provides assistance to state and local justice and public safety agencies to collect, curate, and use National Incident-Based Reporting System (NIBRS) data and computerized criminal history record (CCH/CHRI) information for policy analysis and development.

She also guides justice and related organizations in how to craft and implement laws, policies, practices, and technology applications to effectively collect and use CCH and related justice/public safety data; address legal, policy, and regulatory issues associated with CCH data; better manage and operate criminal justice information and identification systems; and develop security and privacy policies that protect justice information sharing systems.

Ms. Lissy has nearly two decades of research and data analysis experience, having led projects and tasks in support of two agencies within the U.S. Department of Justice’s Office of Justice Programs (the Bureau of Justice Statistics and National Institute of Justice), as well as the Centers of Disease Control and Prevention, and multiple foundations, including Ford, Annie E. Casey, and Hewlett. Prior to joining SEARCH in October 2020, Ms. Lissy served as a Social Science Researcher at RTI International, as a regional Crime Analyst for the Redmond (WA) Police Department, and as Director of a research program with the Harvard Center for Risk Analysis. Beginning in 2012, Ms. Lissy’s work has focused on improving data in law enforcement to answer policy questions and improve community/police relations.

Ms. Lissy earned a Bachelor’s degree in Public Policy from Duke University, and a Master’s in Public Health from the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill.

Michael Mackay

Mr. Michael Mackay is an Information Sharing Developer for SEARCH, The National Consortium for Justice Information and Statistics. As part of the Software and Data Engineering Program (SDEP) team, he plans, develops, implements, and deploys information sharing systems on behalf of SEARCH clients in local, state, tribal, and Federal government settings. He also provides programming, configuration, and testing assistance, and consults on implementation architecture and design with clients. 

Mr. Mackay supports justice, public safety, and homeland security information sharing nationwide through SDEP services that include software architecture and systems design, application development, deployment and support, data management services, and direct technical assistance and training. These services offer capabilities that include federated query, authentication access/control, subscription/notification, process/workflow automation, data analysis, and more. 

Prior to joining SEARCH in 2021, Mr. Mackay worked as a Software Engineering Intern for TDM Business Toole Suite, where he provided software development support using Java frameworks, implemented relational database models using MySQL, and designed GUI components using NetBeans. 

Mr. Mackay will work in an Agile development environment, a methodology that SEARCH embraces that focuses on incremental development and delivery, collaboration in a team approach, and rapid and flexible response to change throughout the development cycle. 

Mr. Mackay earned a bachelor’s degree in Computer Science and Applied Mathematics and Statistics from Stony Brook University, New York.