Pentagon looks to build a bridge between military, intelligence IT consolidation efforts

Friday - 4/18/2014, 4:18am EDT

Jared Serbu reports.

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The federal government's intelligence community is in the process of building an interdependent system of shared IT services for all 17 of the nation's intelligence agencies.

The Pentagon, meanwhile, is on its own path to doing roughly the same thing between the military services and defense agencies.

While the governing bodies that oversee those two parallel efforts do communicate with one another, they have different operating models and objectives.

DoD is still struggling to chart the way forward for agencies that have one foot in the intelligence world and another in the military.

James Clapper, the director of national intelligence announced earlier this week that the intelligence community's shared services plan, ICITE, is ready to start deploying capabilities to agencies, after more than two years of development.

Much like the IC, the Defense Department is making incremental progress on collapsing its own IT stovepipes into a set of standards it calls the Joint Information Environment (JIE).

Bridging those two still-evolving worlds has now become the job of the Defense Intelligence Information Enterprise (DI2E), and its governing body, the Defense Information Integration (DI2) council.

"This bridging function is a critical strategic function, and it probably makes the DI2 council more critical than it's been in the past," said James Martin, the deputy undersecretary of Defense for intelligence for portfolio, programs and resources.

To complicate matters further, DoD needs to bring into the fold a third effort it's been working on for years: creating a framework to exchange intelligence information with foreign allies.

"We have to work that overlap between those three large efforts," he said. "ICITE is very intelligence-focused, but it's also very national-focused as it works toward our new cloud architectures. JIE has a much larger user base, including logistics, administration, command and control networks, as well as the defense intelligence piece. It's a much larger population, and we need to figure out how to connect these Venn diagrams."

To build that bridge, Defense officials say they want to repurpose as much construction material as they can from what the architects of JIE and ICITE are already designing, even if those two enterprise IT models didn't start from the same drawing board.

With input from all of the military's intelligence components, the council concluded that there are 183 individual IT "services" that handle everything the intelligence community does as of today. Out of that huge number, it identified 10 separate focus areas that it thinks should make up the tie-lines between JIE and ICITE, including identity and access management, data tagging and time synchronization.

"We have to get those right, and they're evolutionary right now," Martin said. "They're being worked at different levels of maturity and agreement, and we need to be part of the negotiation process between our own CIO and the intelligence community's CIO, and they're the ones we need to converge on and use as a common framework to do this bridging function. Once that happens, we believe that everything else will be much easier. Everything else that will ride on that common framework will achieve the kind of interoperability and efficiencies that we need to."

The DI2 council assigned most of the technical work to the National Reconnaissance Office, which is now working through the nitty-gritty details of how the fundamental elements of JIE and ICITE will work together.

Ed Lane, the director of NRO's enterprise management group, said his agency is using an approach that will make use of components of both ICITE and JIE in order to minimize the amount of purpose-built work that must be done to suit DoD's intelligence agencies.

"We ultimately want to have the applications separate from the data so that we don't have to deliver end-to-end stovepiped systems," he said. "We are really walking away from the old way of having systems and then integrated systems. We are really moving into Web-based services and composite services. The ten touch points are one of the ways we're tied together, but the shared service concept is the same. We don't care whether the service comes from ICITE or from JIE. The key is whether we can document it, componentize it, and make it available for reuse. That's really our goal."

The top-level push toward JIE and ICITE also has implications for a DoD initiative to integrate the military services' intelligence collection and processing systems, and that pre-dates either one of them.

The DI2 council and its predecessor body have spent most of their time over the past decade on the Distributed Common Ground System (DCGS). Each military service has its own variant of DCGS, each in varying phases of deployment.