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IC matures shared services

Apr. 7, 2014 - 06:00AM   |  
By NICOLE BLAKE JOHNSON   |   Comments
The National Reconnaissance Agency will be one of the CIA cloud's first customers.
The National Reconnaissance Agency will be one of the CIA cloud's first customers. (US Navy/Michael Hight)

When the CIA rolls out initial cloud services this summer, the National Reconnaissance Office will be among its first customers.

NRO has already identified five applications, including its Enterprise Resource Planning software, as likely candidates for migrating to CIA’s Amazon cloud offering.

The move is part of a larger shift taking place across the intelligence community, one that relies heavily on shared information technology services as opposed to one-off investments and siloed systems. Shared capabilities under the Intelligence Community Information Technology Enterprise (ICITE) initiative, include common cloud and desktop capabilities, such as standard email, collaboration tools and video conferencing for IC employees, an app store and network services.

“We’re looking at the bigger pictures, such as information integration and intelligence integration across the intelligence community,” Donna Hansen, NRO’s chief information officer, said in an interview. “This is one of the really exciting things about ICITE … it’s really going to be able to help us do things together behaviorally much more because we’re all going to be on that same IT infrastructure.”

Government doesn’t have the appetite to do business as usual, especially following sequester cuts, tighter budgets and the October shutdown, said Gene Keselman, co-founder and director at the nonprofit Foundation for Innovation and Discovery. Contractors can expect to see greater use of integrated solutions, based on ICITE standards.

At NRO, the Communications Systems Directorate will play a broker role to ensure program managers are taking advantage of ICITE offerings where possible, in addition to coordinating with ICITE contractors.

NRO, for the most part, will be a consumer of IT services but will have a unique service provider role in the networks arena. In particular, NRO is working with other intelligence agencies to develop the networks requirements and engineering activities for the overall ICITE networks, Hansen said.

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NRO submitted initial designs for a common network architecture that will be reviewed as soon as this month. Once those requirements are in place under the ICITE model, the focus will be on campus-area and wide-area networks, Hansen said. For example, the host agency at a particular building would be responsible for managing the network on that campus. For longer-range networks between buildings, cities or countries, there will be a few key players providing those services.

NSA's robust cloud strategy

For CIA’s cloud offering, customers will be able to order directly from the $600 million Amazon contract, Hansen said. NRO is using the modified version of Amazon’s public cloud for hosting applications but will use the National Security Agency’s goverment cloud for storing data and doing analytic work.

NSA’s cloud consists of a utility cloud offering or hosting platform; a data cloud for meta data and analytic work, as well as a storage cloud. The government cloud will be a replica of NSA’s internal solution. The goal is to converge the internal and external capabilities and maintain a single cloud, Lonny Anderson, NSA’s director of technology and chief information officer, said during a March 25 webcast.

For now, the focus is getting meta data into NSA’s cloud, where analytics and global searches of IC data occur, Hansen said. Each of the data sets must be tagged to ensure only authorized users can access the information.

One concern is that sensitive data in the cloud will be accessible to everyone, which NSA’s Anderson says is not the case. Users will have access only to the data in the cloud that is authorized for their specific role. The agency tracks what information is accessed, moved, printed and copied in the cloud, he said.

At the desktop level, the Defense Intelligence Agency is firming up its solicitation for common capabilities across the IC, including instant messaging, chat and shared calendars.

Agencies are also sharing common apps and software code via an enterprise registry and repository. One of those applications is the National Geospatial-Intelligence Agency’s FindTheExpert app, which allows users to find experts across the Intelligence Community, including analysts, technology experts, and management experts.

While ICITE’s premise is good and the technology and resources are available, the greatest impediment is the lack of unity, Keselman said.

Agencies are executing what they see as their role in ICITE, but there is not enough unity in execution, he said. “The whole thing is about communication;, it’s not a policy problem.”

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