An impressive panel featuring participants from the some of the most well-known "three-lettered" intelligence organizations got down to the nuts and bolts of intelligence agencies' requirements. The discussion, which took place this morning at the AFCEA Small Business Intelligence Forum in Fairfax, Virginia, also centered on where the organizations plan to go in the near future in the information technology realm.
Presenting information about the CIA was Jill Singer, deputy chief information officer (CIO). As one of the independent agencies within the intelligence community, Singer explained that the CIA is not subject to the same small business guidelines and side-asides as the other agencies. This drew some discontent within the audience of more than 100 attendees, but Singer quickly explained that this does not mean that the agency is not dedicated to working with small companies. In fact, she pointed out, nearly half of the CIA's business is awarded to small companies.
From now until 2015, the CIA will be focused on a number of priorities that offer industry several opportunities. Among them are transforming the collection and analysis intelligence, communications and access to mission-support information. A process is in place for companies to work with the CIA and can begin by e-mailing the agency at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Panelist Kelly Miller, deputy CIO, NSA, also spoke of transformation, and in the NSA's case it will be in the form of a move from information system stovepipes to a service-oriented architecture. In addition, the agency is working toward a federated enterprise so that information can be shared across NSA sectors, with other intelligence agencies and even with foreign partners. "We are not focused on information technology as much as on information management across the enterprise," Miller said.
He shared four ideas about how small companies can work with the NSA. First, the NSA operates with many niche markets, so it is looking for specific expertise. Second, several large contracts currently are in force, and small business owners should investigate how to become part of those contracts. Third, when small companies do not want to be part of a large contractor team, they should present themselves to the agency as an independent company interested in direct work. Fourth, companies should present solutions to the NSA that can be used across the entire intelligence community because that is the direction in which the intelligence agencies are moving.
Miller also recommended that small company owners keep track what types of capabilities the intelligence community is purchasing and should stay away from offering proprietary products. He stated that it is not impossible to work with the NSA even if a company does not have security clearances. "NSA is very serious about working with small businesses. We cannot do our job without the contractor community," he said.
The DIA's representative at the forum was Vivian Turnbull, vice deputy director for information management and CIO. Turnbull shared that her organization has signed a Letter of Strategic Intent with the National Geospatial-Intelligence Organization and that, to some degree, will eliminate the duplication of effort of the two agencies.
In terms of working with the DIA, Turnbull said that agility is key. The agency has a variety of skill sets but does not conduct research and development itself. Instead, it relies on other intelligence community organizations and industry to bring new capabilities into its Innovation Department.
The DIA's focus today is on decreasing the time it takes to get a product into the hands of warfighters and reducing costs. Small businesses must demonstrate how their solutions contribute to increasing the return on investment as well as support scalability. The agency is particularly interested in innovations for dealing with cyberspace challenges.
Dean Hall, associate executive assistant director and deputy CIO, FBI, pointed out that his organization is so multidimensional that it presents many opportunities for small businesses to provide solutions. He recommended that companies go to either the U.S. Department of Justice or FBI small business offices to find out about many projects that do not require security-cleared personnel.
Hall listed several of the bureau's priority needs, which includes next-generation biometrics capabilities. "Secure mobile communications also is a high priority for the FBI. We also are embarking on a technology refresh as we're about five years past the Trilogy program, and we are now moving to the next-generation workspace." Like many of the other agencies, the FBI plans to change to enterprise architecture rather than purchase or build individual systems.