Intelligence Agency Merges Technology Centers

April 2006
By Jeffery Zielecki

U.S. Air Force officers monitor incoming intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance data at a tactical sensor management station. The Defense Intelligence Agency’s move to consolidate its information technology assets into five centers facilitates the sharing of information gathered from different areas of the world using various technologies.
Consolidation aims to confronting today’s threats.

The Defense Intelligence Agency is meeting the global threat head-on by moving from its traditional decentralized information technology framework to a consolidated, enterprise-centric environment. As part of a transformational effort called the Department of Defense Intelligence Information System Way Ahead, the agency is replacing its stovepiped environment with regional service centers that have global reach. The centers facilitate all-source data access and enable worldwide availability of information, and the consolidation will correct inefficiencies, decrease costs and improve user productivity.

The Gulf War of the early 1990s fathered a new-era threat environment characterized by the presence of new-age weapons of mass destruction, from Scud missiles with possible nuclear, biological or chemical war heads to dirty bombs to suicide bombers. With seemingly unstoppable countless terror attacks occurring all over the world, an attack could impact any or all of the U.S. combatant commands’ (COCOMs’) areas of responsibility at any given time because adversaries no longer work along traditional COCOM boundaries. An analyst at Joint Intelligence Command Pacific might be studying the movements and actions of the same person who has crossed the radar of an analyst 5,000 miles away at the U.S. Central Command.

Because the United States’ enemies no longer operate along Cold-War-era boundaries, the U.S. intelligence community must enable global analysis to defeat widespread and ill-defined threats. This means that the information management and technology framework analysts rely on can no longer be monolithic but rather must be agile and global. In addition, the Defense Intelligence Agency (DIA), Bolling Air Force Base, Washington, D.C., must be enterprise-focused to provide analysts, intelligence collectors, warfighters, defense planners and national security policy makers with the continuous, on-demand access to information they need to collaborate and coordinate and then locate the enemy. In addition, analysts and intelligence collectors require powerful and globally accessible analytic and knowledge discovery tools to conduct aggressive all-source analysis across multiple security domains. The right tool combined with the right technology enables the rapid conversion of information into knowledge at any time and in any place.

To accomplish this, the Department of Defense Intelligence Information System (DoDIIS) Way Ahead calls for the consolidation of General Defense Intelligence Program (GDIP) information technology assets, resources and capabilities within the DIA, eight of the nine COCOMs, U.S. Forces–Korea and the Multi-National Force–Iraq. With the exception of U.S. Special Forces Command assets, they all are being positioned under one centrally managed and regionally executed umbrella. The objective is to attain greater efficiency, to increase productivity, to enhance security and to enable substantial redirection of funds to higher priority mission requirements through significant cost avoidance.

Operational control of these assets, resources and capabilities was officially transferred to the DIA on October 1, 2005, empowering the DoDIIS chief information officer (CIO) to perform those information technology functions that involve organizing and employing personnel, assigning and prioritizing tasks, and designating objectives. This move also gave the CIO the authority to accomplish the global intelligence information technology mission and the transformational efforts of the DoDIIS Way Ahead. Transfer of administrative control of these assets is slated to occur in October.

The consolidation of GDIP information technology resources across the DIA and the commands will foster a common operating methodology that will significantly enhance global collaboration and information sharing. The common structure will yield a significant return on investment by eliminating duplication and enabling global access to cutting-edge technology. The new governance structure will promote agility and will improve security.

One vital component of the DoDIIS Way Ahead transformation effort will be the adoption of the regional service center (RSC) concept. This operating model will foster the migration of numerous independent defense intelligence information technology centers across the commands and the DIA into five globally linked, full-service centers. Data repositories, applications, hardware, licensing, core servicing and systems management will be consolidated and centralized to provide network-centric enterprise capabilities and information technology infrastructure to defense intelligence community customers.

This concept constitutes a cultural shift for the defense intelligence community. Personnel are moving from a culture in which everyone owns their own data and information technology to one where data, information technology services and tools are globally available because they reside on or are accessible through the enterprise.

The five RSCs—located in Florida, Colorado, Hawaii, Europe and the Defense Intelligence Analysis Center at the DIA—are connected by a high-speed wide area network known as the Joint Worldwide Intelligence Communications System. This system supports all producers of intelligence by connecting them through data, voice, video and other collaborative tools, enabling a consistent and robust analytical process worldwide.

Comparable to an enterprise data warehouse, the RSCs enable access to data and information technology services and form the foundation for data to be centrally meshed and managed by a single enterprise entity that is transparent to the users. This construct will provide users with a uniform toolset across the DoDIIS enterprise, which will enable more complete analysis and will speed the conversion of day-to-day information to knowledge and to actionable intelligence.

A primary incentive for the DoDIIS move to a network-centric environment is to ensure that data is made available to potential users as quickly as possible. To achieve this, all new applications and major upgrades, databases and infrastructure services developed using GDIP resources will be designed with the flexibility to operate as a component of the RSCs. Exceptions will be considered but warranted only when significant cost savings or operational restrictions can be fully demonstrated.

Although the end-state objective of the RSC concept focuses on enterprisewide operational objectives, not every application needs to be installed at every RSC. Operational performance requirements, survivability and implementation costs are important factors that will be considered to determine whether and where an application will be fielded. As each application is considered for transition into the RSCs, it will be evaluated on its technical merit, compliance with security requirements and resource implications to determine the best architecture to meet worldwide deployment.

The RSC concept also will provide economies of scale for the DoDIIS enterprise through enhanced operations and systems reliability, improved data access, assured data recovery, increased efficiencies, and reduced operations and maintenance overhead. For example, it will be possible to implement larger servers and to more efficiently use and consolidate mass-storage devices in a smaller number of locations, focusing resources on functional survivability rather than redundancy.

The RSC operating model places significant emphasis on disaster recovery as well. The disaster recovery program being orchestrated comprises automated failover and failback services that back up all enterprise applications. For instance, if a server fails in the Defense Intelligence Analysis Center, it would automatically switch over to another RSC’s server and then would switch back to its home server once the home server is brought back online. The most notable aspect of this disaster recovery process is the transparency of the failover and failback process; the user will not notice any degradation of service during this process.

The desired end state of the RSC implementation is to provide and maintain a global, stable enterprise environment. While the RSC model is a change in the way intelligence business is conducted, its implementation is a constantly evolving process as well. As such, applications, ideas, hardware, software and capabilities will always be changing as improvements and additions are made. The RSC capabilities also will continue to evolve in response to changing defense and intelligence community policies, direction and requirements.

RSC objectives of a global architecture, fault tolerance, optimized efficiencies and centralized management are in full alignment with the goals of the DoDIIS Way Ahead. Consequently, successfully implementing the RSC initiative is a key element to the success of the transformation effort. The centers and the overarching DoDIIS Way Ahead should be viewed as key to the implementation of network centricity and as representative of the next generation of an all-source analytical environment.


Jeffrey Zielecki is the deputy of enterprise operations support at the Defense Intelligence Agency.


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