DoD, intelligence community finding common enterprise IT ground

Wednesday - 5/14/2014, 4:39am EDT

Jared Serbu reports.

Download mp3

The Defense Department and the intelligence community are both in the process of building their own enterprise IT structures, and in many ways, they're on their own separate paths. But officials say as they proceed, they're also trying to keep each other from inventing the same wheel wherever possible.

DoD's Joint Information Environment (JIE) and the Intelligence Community Information Technology Enterprise (ICITE) both started at about the same time, and for similar reasons. The two large government communities realized they needed to consolidate their stovepiped and needlessly expensive IT infrastructures, so that they could survive the budget downturn.

The two initiatives have gone forward along parallel, but somewhat disconnected paths — until now. DoD and IC leaders say they're now finding ways to leverage one another's work.

For example, the Office of the Director of National Intelligence has just launched a new partnership with the Defense Information Systems Agency, DoD's lead agency for implementing JIE. The two groups held their first official meeting last month.

One early initiative in the ODNI-DISA effort, said Al Tarasiuk, the intelligence community's chief information officer, is to find ways to extend some of the IT services the IC is building for ICITE's top secret environment into the lower- level secret and unclassified domains, so that they can be used under JIE.

"This is an important and strategic partnership for us, because DISA will be able to leverage our significant experience in establishing and operating enterprise- class IT services, as well as ensuring interoperability between systems that are connected to both ICITE and JIE," Tarasiuk said. "We are in discussions with DISA about providing these critical services in a secret and unclassified cloud environment — both infrastructure and platform services to provision IT infrastructure on demand, including virtual servers, storage and networking."

Several IC shared services in place

Tarasiuk, speaking Tuesday at the JIE mission partner symposium in Baltimore sponsored by AFCEA, said DoD and the IC also are looking at ways to share a common set of enterprise management services.

"It's basically a helpdesk and service desk for problem reporting, management resolution, monitoring of operational status [and] other services," he said. "We're excited about this growing partnership with DISA. This has long been needed for the IC, and I'm really glad that we're finally getting on with it."

After 2 1/2 years of planning ICITE's architecture, Tarasiuk said the IC is implementing several aspects of that environment's shared services model.

In the ICITE construct, the ODNI has assigned each of the large intelligence agencies with the responsibility to act as service providers to the rest of the community.

"It took longer than we thought it would to develop the infrastructure, but we've put together the foundational pieces, and they're actually operating," he said. "We're now at a point where the services are being scaled to allow the entire IC to begin transitioning their entire mission processes to the new platform."

For example, a government-developed cloud computing service the National Security Agency has been creating for ICITE now is up and running. Tarasiuk said it lets IC agencies take a broad array of data, collected by various agencies, into a common computing environment that each of them will be able to access, using one set of search tools. Placing so much data into one virtual repository is a risky endeavor in the post-Snowden era, but the IC believes it's gone a long way toward mitigating those risks by building in data-tagging mechanisms, so that each piece of information is only viewable by those who have a legitimate need to see it.

"Initially, we purposely chose to ingest some of the more security-challenging mission data sets, so that we could build in the right security controls from the start," Tarasiuk said. "That process has gone very well for us."

The CIA, which the ODNI directed to share the cloud computing task with NSA, turned to Amazon to build a private cloud based on that company's technology. Over the next few months, the CIA and NSA will integrate their separate clouds into a single construct the IC calls the "IC Cloud."

Convergence around governance

Meanwhile, the National Geospatial Intelligence Agency and the Defense Intelligence Agency have deployed the common desktop interface to 5,000 users. The DNI plans to expand that to 50,000 next year and add 50,000 more every year thereafter until it's in place across the entire IC.

DIA and NGA also are responsible for building an applications "mall" for the intelligence community, a service Tarasiuk said would serve as one of the IC's methods for reducing applications across the IC. Shoppers, so far, are able to pick from 400 apps that they can use under the new common desktop.