Intell agencies poised for tech breakthroughs

Formal processes for data sharing, cloud computing expected to cut costs, boost security

Government agencies are pushing forward with their efforts to share data securely over networks, although they still have a ways to go. At the same time, they also are striving to adopt more cloud computing while letting users connect mobile devices to secure networks.

Networks that let various groups share information, allowing users with a broad range of knowledge to analyze it from different viewpoints, are very attractive to government officials.

“Imagine how formidable our capabilities will be when we bring all the aspects together,” Al Tarasiuk, CIO for the Office of the Director of National Intelligence, said May 3 at the Department of Defense Intelligence Information Systems conference in Detroit. Tarasiuk moderated a panel that focused on fusing intelligence missions through technology.

More formalized data sharing will also trim costs, he added, explaining that agencies are continuing their efforts to build once, use many times instead of designing proprietary equipment for each agency. Reducing costs is also one reason that agencies are moving to cloud computing. Processing capability and disk space can exist on the network so users can carry smaller, less powerful devices in the field.

“We’re heavily involved in cloud computing capabilities and in the storage cloud community. We want to build a large cloud accessible by many groups, eventually providing access to homogeneous, heterogeneous data over the cloud,” said Kelly A. Miller, deputy CIO for the National Security Agency/Central Security Service.

When more users are accessing secure systems using tablets and smart phones, data security will become more of an issue. That’s causing a shift in the way some information officers look at data security

“We’re moving to a concept where devices know who you are and what you need,” Miller said. “We’re starting to protect data. In that model, you start losing classified protection boundaries and you start protecting data. That lets us move to a more mobile environment.”

Though panelists touted the benefits of sharing data between agencies, they also resisted suggestions that their efforts be expanded. Groups that have already teamed up might find it disruptive if their interactions included more agencies.

For example, the NSA, Defense Intelligence Agency, National Reconnaissance Office, and National Geospatial-Intelligence Agency are working together in the so-called Quad group. Suggestions that the CIA and FBI be added to this group could create more problems than benefits, one panelist said.

“We can move faster if we don’t have to get consensus from everyone,” said Jill Tummler Singer, CIO at the National Reconnaissance Office. “Also, when you bring in the FBI, you bring in some legal issues that can have an impact on what we’re doing.”

About the Author

Terry Costlow is a contributing writer for Defense Systems.

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