Intell community looks to cloud computing

Intelligence community tightening belt, looking to IT for savings

Turning to a cloud solution that seemingly leaves behind the silos of secrecy may not be an obvious choice for intelligence agencies, but as budget cuts affect the Defense Department – including its intelligence components – that’s what’s happening, officials said.

“This is going to be a cultural shift in addition to a technology shift in the way we do business, and in the agencies recognizing that some of their individualities and their equities are not going to be given up, but they’re going to interface with them in a different way,” Grant Schneider, deputy director for information management and CIO of the Defense Intelligence Agency, said in a CIO panel discussion at the GEOINT Symposium in San Antonio, Texas, on Oct. 19.

According to the panel members, a number of cloud-based efforts are underway as the intelligence community works to transform its use of IT to a model that incorporates shared services and requires less duplicative resources.

According to Al Tarasiuk, Office of the Director of National Intelligence's (ODNI) CIO, some cloud-type measures to streamline the community's  IT were in the works before budget pressure began, and those efforts are being accelerated.

“Our transformation is being fueled by the national debt – an event we can’t ignore, ” Tarasiuk said. “We decided as a team not to look at this as a budget exercise but as an opportunity for us to find a way to improve mission support and at the same time drive down the cost of IT. It’s an opportunity for us to transform our federated architecture and take advantage of advances in technology – things like virtual desktop, clouds and server virtualization.”

Tarasiuk outlined a new proposal at the ODNI that incorporates elements such as thin client, smart data, single-design back office and desktop architecture that can be used many times, consolidated infrastructure and networks, shared intelligence community services that can be easily provisioned, widget applications and standardized, interoperable cloud technology.

“We’re doing all of this on all classification domains and also to the mobile user and to the tactical edge, in concert with what DOD is doing and our other mission partners as well,” he said.

Tarasiuk said the community also must change its business operating model, moving away from agencies managing their own IT environments in favor of an enterprise design – but a design that still maintains its classified obligations.

“Not everything will go into this – there are obviously some unique [requirements] and unique capabilities on the mission side to agencies that will have to remain separate. But we’ll have to ensure their interoperability,” Tarasiuk said.

He said an implementation plan for the proposal is due in December.

Although giving up some autonomies that have long characterized the intelligence community may not be the easiest sell, Kelly Miller, the National Security Agency/Central Security Service's deputy CIO, said the community is well prepared for the transformation.

“I think there’s a large breadth of activity, and the strength of that is there’s a lot of expertise within the individual agencies. That expertise I think is very well leveraged across the IC and connected to DOD. We have deployed clouds and operational clouds in our enterprises and we’re looking right now at ensuring that they’re better integrated and aligned with the current architecture,” Miller said.

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