• Intelligence community chief information officers are selecting advanced capabilities to support key mission efforts. Credit: Shutterstock/Gorodenkoff
     Intelligence community chief information officers are selecting advanced capabilities to support key mission efforts. Credit: Shutterstock/Gorodenkoff

Intelligence CIOs Target Advanced Technologies

September 17, 2020
By Kimberly Underwood
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Innovative plans have only accelerated during the pandemic, experts say.

During the pandemic, technology leaders across intelligence agencies have focused not only on supporting the continuity of mission efforts and the connectivity of its work force, but also emerging solutions to drive innovation and efficiencies.

Some of the main tools officials are pursuing include: advanced software delivery, multicloud use, machine learning and data processing tools, said chief information officers (CIOs), who along with moderator Lewis Shepherd of VMware, spoke on September 17 at the Intelligence and National Security Summit, co-hosted virtually by INSA and AFCEA.

For Sue Dorr, CIO, Office of the Director of National Intelligence (ODNI), and other organizations, the pandemic has brought the need for digital solutions to the forefront.

“I, like many other CIOs, are really thinking through the modernization of information technology (IT) capabilities in partnership with our mission,” Dorr said. “We are taking advantage of the robust cloud offerings that are coming across the whole of the IC, as many of those activities are continuing to mature and expand.”

Development security operations, or DevSecOps, a faster and more secure way to create software, is another area in which the CIO is focusing. She also is leading the modernization of workflow processes and putting in related digital platforms to achieve better transparency and delivery of services to ODNI’s customers.

Brig. Gen. Jeth Rey, USA, director, Command and Control, Communications and Computer Systems (C4) and J-6, U.S. Central Command (CENTCOM), shared that the command has the ability to put infrastructure not only at CENTCOM headquarters, but in its area of responsibility (AOR) in the Middle East as well, he said.

Technological advancements in C4-related tools are needed, the general said, especially any solutions that could help CENTCOM leaders interact daily with about 52 nations.

“Working in this COVID environment has challenged this more than you can imagine,” he acknowledged. “So, as a distributed workforce right now, and as a distributed coalition environment has really challenged what we bring to the table as far as information sharing.”

Like others, the command has had to address the transport capability of its network given the rapid increase in video teleconferencing, or VTC, needs. “The pipes were not up to the size that we needed in order to take on such a challenge for distributed work.” The command also is working with partner nations, leveraging their different transport capabilities, in order to share information.

Gen. Rey would also like to see technologies applied to the military that are commonly available in the financial industry. “Why not build the same environment?” he said, asking the defense and IC industry to help with emerging tools.

Meanwhile, the priorities of Greg Smithberger, director, Capabilities Directorate, and CIO, National Security Agency (NSA), include developing the agency’s next-generation mission platform. The NSA also is harnessing the IC government cloud as a large-scale data discovery, data fusion, data analysis environment, which enables the agency to handle lots of diverse data types, and at speed, he said. They also are able to apply a fair amount of automation and big data analytics, some artificial intelligence and machine learning. The NSA’s Cyber Security directorate is interested in advancing its capabilities across lower classification levels.

In addition, many of the foundation technologies needed for the NSA’s unique development of its classified environment can actually be started at an unclassified level, Smithberger stressed. “We've been doing sort of a split low-side, high-side development approach for a few years, and we are developing that further.”

At the Defense Intelligence Agency (DIA), which has addressed workflow considerations, Doug Cossa, deputy CIO, is pursuing several priorities of the agency, including: the Machine-assisted Analytic Rapid-repository System, or MARS; for open source information, creating a hub to integrate Defense Department (DOD) collection, analysis, tradecraft, policy and resources; and creating wide-area-network (WAN) services on Joint Worldwide Intelligence Communications System, or JWICS, for DOD.

“We are making big investments in fiscal year 2021 to modernize JWICS,” Cossa said. Their efforts also include artificial intelligence, machine learning, multicloud environments and “how to augment and increase the capacity of JWICS to support those technologies.”

In addition, the agency is supporting more modernized features of the non-classified Internet Protocol (IP) Router Network, or NIPRNet, improving the unclassified teleworking environment with collaboration tools, document storage in a remote environment, email, messaging, chat, voice, and video.

The DIA also is conducting a pilot program involving open source intelligence, or OSINT, “to see what functions we could do from home in a telework environment, …. which we've never done before,” he shared.

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