The nation's intelligence community needs to cut years out of the time it takes to buy information technology systems before it can take advantage of information sharing among government organizations, said the chief information officer for National Intelligence.
Comment on this article in the Forum.Intelligence agencies can no longer spend three years to acquire products and services in the traditional acquisition model, which includes writing detailed statements of work, said Dale Meyerrose, deputy director and CIO for National Intelligence. He spoke at the annual Department of Defense Intelligence Information System Conference in San Diego. In an interview with Nextgov, Meyerrose said IT procurements should be turned around in 75 days, not the three years it now takes, he said.
Grant Schneider, deputy director for information management and chief information officer for the Defense Intelligence Agency, said "speed to market" was one of his key priorities as well. He said quickly fielding a solution that delivered on 80 percent of a system's planned functionality was better than taking longer to field a perfect system.
The national intelligence community also should centralize IT operations that now operate in multiple intelligence agencies such as the CIA, the National Security Agency and the National System for Geospatial-Intelligence Agency, Meyerrose said. In April 2005, those agencies were put under the management of the new Office of the Director of National Intelligence. "This will give us the opportunity to solve problems once," he said.
Centralization will include applications such as e-mail as well as managing data at an enterprise level instead of within individual agencies, said Meyerrose, adding that software development needed a central focus to enable information sharing among agencies. "Every line of locally developed code [creates] a stovepipe to the rest of the world," he said.
DIA has fielded abut 20,000 laptop or desktop computers and about 8,000 thin clients, monitors and keyboards connected to a central server. Schneider said with some exceptions he preferred thin clients because they offered more flexibility with multiple information systems based on classification.
Schneider said he currently accesses three systems, which can be done easily from a thin client based on rights and identity management, instead of using three PCs, which would be connected to three networks. He wants to push DIA toward a thin-client model, which in his view has more flexibility and reduces the amount of hardware the agency needs.
Some DIA end users access five classified networks, which could require a user to have five PCs on his or her desk, Schneider said. End-users who have to manipulate imagery (which requires high-performance, local processing power) will still be equipped with PCs, Schneider said.
Thomas McNamara, program manager for the Information Sharing Environment, told conference attendees that the intelligence community must shift its applications to platforms that appeal to younger people who grew up with the Internet. Meyerrose agreed, adding he had been told by his children that "e-mail is so 2002."
Schneider said DIA serves as the executive agent in the intelligence community for "A-Space," or Analyst-Space, a private and secure networking site modeled on the popular social networking sites MySpace and Facebook. A-Space has 200 users hooked up to a pilot site. The National Intelligence Office intends to deploy A-Space widely by the end of the year. He said DIA analysts already have started making "friends" in their classified social network space, which helps them better process raw information.