U.S. intelligence reached a milestone in its information sharing initiative recently, with a few thousand intelligence employees now accessing the IC shared desktop via the new intelligence community cloud.

It’s the first step of implementation for the Intelligence Community IT Enterprise (ICITE) initiative, which is working toward the creation of a common enterprise IT environment among U.S. intelligence agencies. The single desktop technology currently being utilized is part of a unified desktop delivered via the IC cloud, where each intelligence workers can access the same information and tools.

“We are moving toward a single desktop for the community,” said Al Tarasiuk, CIO of the intelligence community. “So instead of every agency building their own software desktop, which they do today, we will build one for use by all. They will have common collaboration services, and people will be able to use common email and those kinds of things.”

The standardized desktop includes email, collaboration software, storage, data hosting and virtual hosting capabilities for the initial set of users. The cloud infrastructure and apps store are now available to all IC employees with a top secret, sensitive compartmented information (TS-SCI) clearance.

The ICITE is the “largest IT transformation” in the history of the U.S. Intelligence Community Tarasiuk said, which will create a common enterprise IT environment among U.S. intelligence agencies including the CIA, Defense Intelligence Agency, National Geospatial-Intelligence Agency, National Reconnaissance Office and the National Security Agency.

Next year the IC CIO will work to ensure the resilience of the new standardized desktop being used to improve performance and capabilities. After that the number of desktops and the amount of data on them will continue to increase. New services will be introduced including security monitoring and a central service that will monitor end-to-end security of the IC ITE.

“The beauty of what we’re doing is enforcing an IC standard for all data objects that go in the cloud,” Tarasiuk said. “Today, agencies comply with security standards, but they implement them in different ways. This is where we believe we can improve information sharing over time.”

The majority of IC workers are expected to access all available capabilities by 2018. The new system is projected to reduce intelligence agencies’ aggregate IT spending by 25 percent by the beginning of fiscal 2018. Savings are expected to come from lower labor costs (both government and contractor) and volume deals on software and hardware.

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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.