U.S. flag

An official website of the United States government, Department of Justice.

Global Reference Architecture (GRA)

Justice Information Sharing
gonin / shutterstock.com (see reuse policy).

Global Reference Architecture (GRA)
(Formerly known as Justice Reference Architecture)


GRA Mission: To enhance justice and public safety through a service-oriented approach to information sharing. We accomplish this mission by providing a reference architecture with guidance for identifying, defining, implementing, and governing services.

NOTE: As a part of Global’s effort to support information sharing activities that span jurisdictional boundaries within and outside of criminal justice, the Justice Reference Architecture (JRA) has been rebranded to the Global Reference Architecture (GRA). This change will not introduce any significant technical modifications to the architecture, but is rather intended to provide a more inclusive service-oriented model that will meet the broader needs of justice, public safety, homeland security, health and human services, and additional stakeholders. The GRA, therefore, is designed to be an information sharing architecture that will meet the needs of government at all levels, and fulfill the need for improved collaboration across communities.

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

Efforts to develop a reusable information sharing solution specific to the justice domain began in the Global Infrastructure/Standards Working Group (GISWG), specifically the Services Task Team (STT), with leadership from Thomas Clarke and James Douglas. Today, under the oversight of the Global Standard Council (GSC), the STT serves two functions: 1) the creation and/or review of new Reference Service Specifications to provide the opportunity for reuse in the field, and 2) review of GRA implementations that have the potential for reuse by other agencies. Additionally, the STT recently identified the most critical information exchange priorities for the national justice community through the input of representatives across the justice domain, publishing the results in the Priorities Definition Workshop Summary Report.

GRA Services in Further Detail

The Global Standards Council has authored the working draft document titled Global Reference Architecture Services to describe in detail GRA services, Service Specification Packages (SSPs), and the Services Task Team (STT). This information is meant to help current and potential users better understand GRA and its components.

GRA Training

SEARCH and the National Center for State Courts recently launched a new version of the training course on the Global Reference Architecture (GRA), a framework and set of standards that makes it easier, faster, and more affordable for justice and public safety practitioners to design effective information sharing solutions. This updated and self-paced online training course is presented in 10 modules and helps stakeholders gain a common understanding of the GRA framework, standards, methods, and processes. The training demonstrates how to establish a governance structure, develop an information sharing architecture, model and document services, and create information models. The course includes interactive, hands-on implementation labs that tie lessons together and is presented via an easy-to-use interface integrating narration, video, and written text with a certificate of completion option. The GRA Training Course is suitable for a range of trainees, including executives, senior managers, project managers/coordinators, and implementers. Access this free GRA training at http://search-training.org/.

GRA Services in Further Detail

GRA Components

The GRA addresses various areas in the implementation of information exchange. Together, these areas form critical components of a comprehensive, replicable, and scalable solution to information sharing that balances varied technologies with dynamic policy considerations:

  • Reference Architecture Planning
    The GRA includes recommendations for technical implementation that leverage Service Oriented Architecture concepts, customized for the justice domain. GRA addresses the full range of information sharing use cases by providing a flexible blueprint for implementing interoperable data sharing services across both technologically advanced organizations and those with limited technology resources. 
  • Service Specification Packages
    GRA solutions to information exchange are made up of a combination of the connection method (often Web Services), the exchange language (use of NIEM is encouraged), and the security specifications (encryption at the transport layer, data layer, etc.). These specifications are packaged into a GRA solution that can be customized to meet an individual organization’s needs. A repository of Reference Service Specification Packages (SSPs) for information exchange in the justice community can be located in the GIST. Developers, architects, and service authors are strongly encouraged to refer to the following namespace site when developing Global service specifications. This namespace provides a collection of names, identified by uniform resource identifiers (URIs), which are used to support GRA service specifications, service specification artifacts, packaging metadata, and sample documents.
  • Technical Implementation Guidance
    Integrating a Reference Service Specifications Package (SSP) into existing IT infrastructure, despite the level of customization available in a Reference SSP, can involve a learning curve for those new to the implementation of GRA. Technical guidance regarding the GRA specification itself, as well as various guides on the interaction of different services and other aspects of information exchange, can be located here. In addition, personal assistance in implementing GRA is available through a number of valuable resources. See the Implementation Assistance section for more information. In addition, for those practitioners who are interested in learning more about architectural compatibility issues known to exist between the Global Reference Architecture and REpresentational State Transfer (REST) services, please direct your attention to this technical note. Global Reference Architecture REST Technical Note September 2011
  • Policy Guidance
    In coordination with the technical implementation of a GRA Reference Service Specification Package, policy-level documents guide interaction between the agencies exchanging information. Examples include Service Level Agreements (SLA), access and identity management specifications, Memoranda of Understanding (MOUs), and many others.