Intelligence Community Information Sharing Takes a Step Back

Intelligence radar

Despite a push by the intelligence community and Pentagon to implement common technology architectures designed to foster information sharing between agencies, both are moving in opposite directions on new each of their projects. Intelligence community information sharing is increasingly difficult as agencies batten down in the face of budget cuts.

The Defense Department’s “joint information environment” and the intelligence community’s “Integrated Intelligence Enterprise” both seek to greater integration, information sharing, mobility and security. Yet both are being constructed independently and differently says the Intelligence and National Security Alliance (INSA) in a white paper.

The Defense Department’s architecture is decentralized since it has no planned acquisition strategy or budget, and is only funded through military organizations that opt in, according to the INSA. The report surveyed and reported finding based on the intelligence community’s chief information officers.

“One of the common complaints we hear from the field, from theaters involved in operations, is that all these people bring all their own networks and architectures with them”, said Neill Tipton, Director of Information Sharing for the Undersecretary of Defense for Intelligence, in the paper. “You sit at a headquarters and you’ve got NSA guys on their NSA net, the NGA guys on the NGA net, the CIA’s on its own network. They’re all doing the same mission, supporting the same commander and working at the same objectives. But their idea of sharing data is sending emails to each other across their different networks.”

While the objectives of the both the Intelligence Community and Defense Intelligence community are timely processing, cross cueing, sharing, high end analytics and all-source knowledge delivery, they will most likely not be met without an IT Shared Service model. The paper gives the example of Instant Messaging that is used across the IC, yet infrastructure differences like authentication and unconnected servers prevent collaborative analysis and sharing across organizations.

“The IC will need to decide what the common IT services are, the architectures used to define and deploy the common IT services, and the cost model used to fund the common IT services,” the report says.

Yet the leaks by Edward Snowden and other high profile leaks may have had an impact on the way these information-sharing projects move forward.

“Recent high profile cases of apparent human intelligence compromise will significantly shape any information sharing acquisitions for a very long time. Industry today can deliver a perfectly secure system, but it would be useless in sharing information,” said Bernie Skoch, a retired Air Force brigadier general with extensive security experience, in NextGov. “Or they can deliver the ideal information sharing platform, but it would likely be less than perfectly secure.  So the challenge continues to be finding the balance between information access and security, and I have yet to see a system that does both perfectly.”

Chandler Harris is a freelance business and technology writer located in Silicon Valley. He has written for numerous publications including Entrepreneur, InformationWeek, San Jose Magazine, Government Technology, Public CIO, AllBusiness.com, U.S. Banker, Digital Communities Magazine, Converge Magazine, Surfer's Journal, Adventure Sports Magazine, ClearanceJobs.com, and the San Jose Business Journal. Chandler is also engaged in helping companies further their content marketing needs through content strategy, optimization and creation, as well as blogging and social media platforms. When he's not writing, Chandler enjoys his beach haunt of Santa Cruz where he rides roller coasters with his son, surfs and bikes across mountain ranges.