Transformation Progressing For Intelligence Technology Backbone

August 2007
By Bob Gourley

Watch personnel on duty at the Joint Functional Component Command for Intelligence, Surveillance and Reconnaissance, hosted by the Defense Intelligence Agency (DIA), use the U.S. Department of Defense Intelligence Information System (DODIIS) for multinetwork connectivity.
The Defense Intelligence Agency’s efforts are paying off with a more agile global information technology enterprise to meet mission needs.

The U.S. Department of Defense Intelligence Information System has completed phase one of a multiyear effort to transform into a more agile enterprise. This global information technology enterprise, led by the Defense Intelligence Agency, serves both analysts and warfighters and provides the backbone of intelligence technology for the Defense Department, combatant commands, the services and many other elements of the national security community. The transformation effort has enhanced the ability of the entire defense intelligence enterprise to serve the mission needs of the military.

Prior to 2005, broad interoperability policies guided the intelligence information technology activities of the Defense Department, combatant commands and the services. The previous Department of Defense Intelligence Information System (DODIIS) enterprise allowed users to exchange data and meet minimal collaboration requirements, but many challenges remained unaddressed. The earlier system did not allow for agility in fielding enterprisewide capabilities, and only rudimentary abilities existed to recover from potential disasters. All users faced huge challenges in multilevel security and cross-domain access. And analytical tools took years to design and field to the enterprise, in part because of the overall complexity of the environment.

The DODIIS of today (SIGNAL Magazine, April 2006) has adopted a new governance model based on industry best practices for enterprise information technology management. This model has enhanced the organization’s ability to make key decisions the right way and at the right level in the organization. New processes for command, control and accountability also have been put in place, and new partnerships with industry, academia and other federal organizations have been formed.

Improvements in the enterprise’s ability to support warfighting requirements already are apparent.

A single, foundational Joint Intelligence Operations Center (JIOC) technology baseline has been established and fielded. This baseline, which is founded on the Global Command and Control System family of systems, leverages infrastructure already in place at all combatant commands, and it networks the JIOCs into a more solid framework for operational data exchange. Processes are in place to turn this initial package of capabilities into an end-to-end architecture that includes service systems such as the Distributed Common Ground Station (DCGS). Now any service DCGS program, including the U.S. Army DCGS and the capabilities formerly known as JIOC-Iraq, can access and search across more DODIIS data.

New global solutions for intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance (ISR) visualization involving coordinated data feeds from every combatant command have been established and fielded to the Defense JIOC and the U.S. Strategic Command’s Joint Functional Component Command for ISR headquarters.

A new secure voice system that leverages voice over Internet protocol has been fielded, providing secure compartmented voice communications to anyone who can enter intelligence community networks. This system connects to the legacy secure telephones of the intelligence community so any organization that can use the Joint Worldwide Intelligence Communications System (JWICS) can dial into core intelligence production centers. It also includes a directory system that makes it easy to find other users and facilitates collaboration. DODIIS engineers designed this capability so that any location that has a JWICS connection, including temporary secure facilities, can have secure, sensitive compartmented information voice communications.

 DODIIS engineers instituted and fielded a single global secure grid of desktop video teleconference (VTC) systems that connects people so they can see each other face to face around the globe from their desktops. Most previous desktop VTC systems would work only within a small compound or region. Now users in any combatant command with a desktop VTC system can call any other combatant command or anyone at the Defense Intelligence Agency, the Joint Staff Directorate of Intelligence or the service intelligence centers.

The DODIIS is fielding an initial wave of the DODIIS Trusted Workstation (DTW), an integrated, high-security solution that provides the most significant enhancement to multilevel security and cross-domain challenges in the history of the community. More than 8,000 of these devices have been fielded already, and at least 17,000 will be deployed by the end of this year. The DTW provides a better way to send all-source intelligence to analysts and a better way to send the results of analysis to the systems that operational decision makers use.

As part of the trusted workstation, the DODIIS is putting JWICS, the Defense Department’s secret Internet protocol router network (SIPRNET), Allied Stoneghost and many other domains on the desktops of the department’s intelligence users. The precise domains accessed vary from location to location, but any classified domain is a candidate for this method of visualization. This process takes place through a thin client, with the heavy lifting occurring in server rooms. The DTW operates without a need for a separate PC under the desk for each network.

Through the DTW, the DODIIS also is giving users a means to move information across domains, securely, in new ways. Every DTW user can be given the authority to move information from a lower domain to a higher domain. Trained users are given permission to move appropriately released/classified information from a higher domain to a lower one, using special two-person review processes.

Intelligence analysts do not have to use a DTW to see information from other domains. Analysts who are still on old-fashioned fat client computers can use Web services on JWICS to “browse down” to other domains. This allows JWICS-based analysts to search networks such as the SIPRNET, Stoneghost or other systems and bring information back to their all-source workstations.

Jenny Lasley (onscreen), DIA director of congressional and public affairs, conducts a desktop video teleconference (VTC) with DIA congressional staff member F. Dixon Jordan. VTC services have been established and expanded under the DODIIS.
Defense intelligence personnel who must deploy to other locations now can use JWICS to access the intelligence data and the classified e-mail they have on JWICS at their home workstation. This enhances the productivity of an increasingly mobile work force.

The capabilities of JWICS’ room-based VTC services have been enhanced in multiple ways, including by increasing the number of sites that can be brought into a conference. Previously, only 16 sites could be brought into a VTC; currently, the upper limit is 48. Additionally, VTC sites that once were supported only by one communications path now have dual homes, which means that overall system reliability has improved.

Sites that use JWICS for data are being upgraded to allow them to use significantly more bandwidth so much more intelligence can be moved to and from distant users. For example, 13 sites already have had their bandwidth increased by a factor of 200 (from 3 megabits per second to 622 megabits per second), and more than 75 others will soon operate at that level. For urgent deployments of JWICS data systems, a global framework for small satellite communications capabilities has been established.

DODIIS applications are being fielded to require less back-end support, and they are easier for users to learn and put to work. Upgrades to current applications are being fielded at increasing rates, and new applications that solve today’s challenges also are rolling out quicker. DODIIS users everywhere can access Web-based tools directly from the Defense Intelligence Agency JWICS Web site, and they can gain access to other tools through use of a standardized, repeatable process involving DODIIS customer support representatives.

An increasing number of DODIIS applications are being converted to run in a Web services environment, where the only requirement needed to access the capability is a Web browser. This includes adapting the messaging systems into Web-based applications. Along with this conversion, users obtain better interfaces and new methods to search message traffic from anywhere a JWICS connection exists. Web services versions of collection management tools also have been fielded.

Another DODIIS mission application fielded in this Web services environment is Human Intelligence (HUMINT) Online Tasking and Reporting. This solution integrates processes and workflow in a way that is changing the defense HUMINT enterprise. The application, a 2007 winner of the Defense Department’s Value Engineering Achievement award, has directly increased the responsiveness, quality and timeliness of HUMINT and the all-source intelligence that flows from it.

Most of these new capabilities are available and visible to DODIIS users right now. But many behind-the-scenes changes are occurring that are less visible to users yet important to a smoothly functioning enterprise. For instance, key components of DODIIS search engines and databases have been upgraded to enable more advanced Web 2.0 capabilities for analysts, operators and collectors. “Enterprise 2.0” is being built so that users will have Web 2.0.

Another behind-the-scenes accomplishment involves mechanisms established for DODIIS help desk personnel to respond to customer requirements. For example, DODIIS help desk personnel serving every customer on JWICS around the globe now have a common database of incidents and best practice responses, which means their process to find the solutions to customer problems is much easier.

Other less visible advancements are secure disaster recovery capabilities that better back up and restore critical user data and a single management structure overseeing the server and desktop builds of operating systems. This structure enables DODIIS systems administrators to patch systems more rapidly and also helps developers of capabilities understand what they need to build to. Additionally, new means have been established to allow applications to be deployed to workstations rapidly.

In addition, lights-out data center management tools have been deployed and are enhancing the efficiency of enterprise system administrators. Lights-out data centers are kept locked and secure; under normal conditions, administrators do not enter the area. The management tools also allow deployment of new capabilities to servers with minimal downtime.

Another transformation occurring in the background has led to the establishment of a DODIIS cross-domain management office, giving form and guidance to what used to be an uncountable number of cross domain-efforts and providing another resource for all DODIIS program managers.

 Finally, DODIIS program managers, engineers and leaders have actively sought out methods to partner and cooperate with other chief information officer (CIO) organizations in the intelligence community. These personnel have been working closely with the Director of National Intelligence CIO and Defense Department CIO teams to ensure compliance with critically important mandates from those staffs and also to ensure the leveraging of all possible capabilities that exist throughout the community. Processes also have been put in place to help ensure that anyone in the intelligence community can leverage DODIIS capabilities. 

These and many other improvements in the DODIIS are having a direct impact on the ability of defense intelligence to support operational decision making. For example, defense intelligence analysts at the Defense Intelligence Agency, all combatant commands and all service intelligence centers currently are better able to collaborate on hard intelligence problems. And they are able to access more information as they work to produce knowledge-based products. Reserve intelligence professionals can access e-mail and applications from their active-duty locations at their drill sites. And deployed users with access to classified networks can more easily find the right expert to address their needs.

Additionally, because these capabilities are being fielded into a service-oriented architecture, the DODIIS can more easily shift and tailor these technologies to changing mission needs. This has improved the enterprise’s ability to respond to urgent combatant command requirements. The DODIIS has proved its ability to respond faster to requirements to deploy secure communications, workstations and advanced analytic tools and to back up support with access to one smoothly functioning, global team of expert engineers.

There was some risk involved in embarking on a transition to the new DODIIS. But progress to date is a clear indicator that the system is on the right path and can be expected to continue to improve. The DODIIS will deliver on its vision to enhance continually the delivery of mission-enabling technologies anywhere the mission requires them.

Bob Gourley is the chief technology officer at the Defense Intelligence Agency.

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