Eighteen months after the director of national intelligence announced plans for a new information technology environment that would vastly improve information sharing across the intelligence community, a milestone has set the community on the path to its IT future.
James R. Clapper was talking about the future at that 2011 U.S. Geospatial Intelligence Foundation symposium in Texas, Al Tarasiuk told reporters during a recent briefing, and the Intelligence Community Information Technology Enterprise, or IC ITE — which nearly everyone at the office of the director of national intelligence pronounces “i cite” — was part of the discussion.
Tarasiuk, intelligence community chief information officer and assistant director of national intelligence, said that at the time, consolidating IT across the community was driven by budget considerations. But today, he added, it’s more than an efficiency play on IT.
“We laid out the vision for IC ITE very much focused on improving intelligence integration across the community,” the CIO said. “Basically, the vision statement says [it] enables intelligence integration, information sharing and safeguarding, as well as driving to a more efficient IT model for the community.”
Translating those factors into goals produces effectiveness, security and efficiency, Tarasiuk added.
“In the past, these were mutually exclusive, but … we believe that cloud technologies, the price points that we can obtain today [and] some of the developments that we have invested in … will allow us to … address all three at the same time.”
Around Aug. 16, Tarasiuk said, the ODNI declared a milestone they call the initial baseline for IC ITE. The first step in deploying IC ITE across the intel community began with giving a few thousand users at the Defense Intelligence Agency and the National Geospatial-Intelligence Agency a common software desktop.
“We are moving toward a single desktop for the community,” Tarasiuk said, “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 desktop is being produced by NGA and DIA as partners, he said, part of a new business model for ODNI called a service-provider-based business architecture.
As part of the new IC ITE architecture, Tarasiuk explained, the big five agencies — NGA, DIA, Central Intelligence Agency, National Security Agency and National Reconnaissance Office — alone or as partners, “become the providers of certain … services that we designated as part of this overall architecture.”
The CIO said the IC ITE work leverages investments made by the agencies and much of the work already accomplished by the four combat-support agencies — NSA, DIA, NGA and NRO.
“They were heading toward consolidation of various pieces of IT infrastructure already prior to us starting down the path of IC ITE,” he said, so they had done legwork on a common desktop and had begun planning on network consolidation.
The CIA and NSA are partners on another part of the IC ITE, the IC cloud, which Tarasiuk says consists of the lower layers of IT — bare-metal hosting, analytics as part of that hosting, and virtual and storage capabilities.
“The IC cloud is not something that’s going to be out on the Internet,” he said. “It’s privately hosted inside the intelligence community according to our security standards and under our security watch.”
Tarasiuk said the cloud capabilities are available to the initial DIA and NGA desktop users, but also to legacy users.
“Everyone in the community, everyone who’s connected up to the TS/SCI networks within agencies across the community, can access the capabilities on IC ITE right now,” he said.
Another service that came online in August, provided and managed by NSA, is an applications mall for the intelligence community, the CIO said.
“The idea here is to begin to rationalize the number of applications across the community that might be redundant or that may be needed,” he said, adding that the initial architecture for the mall will be based on a customizable open-source Web application called the Ozone Widget Framework.
The NRO will provide the IC ITE network requirements and engineering service, Tarasiuk said.
“They’re not going to provision networks,” he added, “but they’re going to look at how we connect both our local area networks and our wide area networks and try to find a more efficient model, one that actually improves our effectiveness as well.”
In the coming year, Tarasiuk said, the CIO’s office will work to ensure the resilience of the first several thousand uses of the common desktops and other infrastructure services “to make sure that we can move more production capabilities into it.”
“Then,” he added, “we will scale beyond what we have right now — scale the number of desktops, scale the amount of data that’s in the cloud.”
New services also will be brought in, he said, including security monitoring, and a central service will be established to monitor end-to-end security of IC ITE.
“The beauty of what we’re doing is enforcing an IC standard for all data objects that go in the cloud,” Tarasiuk added. “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.”
Based on the way data was originally implemented, an analyst in one agency may not be able to access certain data sets from another agency, the CIO explained. “What we’re trying to do from an infrastructure perspective is remove roadblocks that prevent that kind of sharing,” he said.
“That’s the big benefit of moving the data. It’s not all going to be in one place, but from a virtual perspective it will be interconnected to the same standards and formats so the automated engines can determine whether a user can see the data or not.”
Tarasiuk also stays in touch with the Defense Department’s CIO, Theresa M. Takai, who for the defense secretary, the nation’s warfighters and many others ensures the delivery of such IT-based capabilities through the Joint Information Environment to support the range of DOD missions.
The need for more effectiveness, security and efficiency isn’t unique to the intelligence community, and DOD is transitioning in a first-phase implementation of the JIE — a single, secure, reliable and agile command, control, communications, and computing enterprise information environment — that spans fiscal years 2013 and 2014.
Tarasiuk says the relationship between IC ITE and JIE is still being defined in terms of what services the enterprises can leverage from each other.
“Teri Takai and I are pretty close partners in trying to ensure three important elements that are critical to the IC and the DOD communities — interoperability of standards and identities, and then the cross-domain capabilities,” he said.
“We chair joint committees,” he added, “and we have people working on committees to ensure that we can move information back and forth and we can understand who’s seeing information, so that’s enabled.”
The CIO said the piece that’s still being defined is where services can be leveraged.
For instance, he said, “we don’t plan on a wide scale to produce a secret domain infrastructure. We are very much focused on TS/SCI domain only, and that’s where our priority is.”
DOD has substantial capabilities already in that space, Tarasiuk added, and the ODNI CIO is exploring that and the unclassified level as potential places to leverage services.
“That’s what we’re currently working on,” he said, “trying to figure out where we can point requirements to JIE or JIE point requirements to us when it comes to the TS/SCI space.”
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