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DIA looks outward for tech ideas

Jun. 24, 2014 - 06:00AM   |  
By AMBER CORRIN   |   Comments
Grant Schneider, DIA CIO, is open to innovation, from wherever it may come.
Grant Schneider, DIA CIO, is open to innovation, from wherever it may come. (DIA)

The Defense Intelligence Agency is looking to other agencies for cues on the better approaches to some of its most pressing issues, including mobility and the integration of secure wireless communications internally and in the theater.

Leaders at DIA are focused on innovation, which includes sharing ideas and best practices with others in the defense community. They already have implemented some practices, such as encryption technology from the National Security Agency that DIA officials are using in an internal wireless pilot program.

Grant Schneider, DIA’s CIO, said that he has a secure laptop that can connect wirelessly to the Joint Worldwide Intelligence Communications System, and that runs several kinds of encryption technologies, part of a pilot project.

“That’s straight from NSA; we didn’t develop that. We took bits and pieces of capability from around the community and put it into a box that enables us to walk around and be connected,” he said on June 24 at DIA’s Innovation Day in Washington. “So DIA is definitely looking into how we can integrate wireless into our buildings…and really it comes down to the business process piece of how we’re going to leverage this in new facilities and how are we going to leverage this in existing facilities—how are they going to get integrated into the work product, if you will?”

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Of course, mobility within a highly secured Defense Department facility is much different from mobility writ large. Officials at DIA hope the driving forces behind the internal mobility pilot will help expand how the agency handles wireless communications outside the confines of their fortified offices.

“We’ve proven that we can do this in a sanctuary environment. I think the possibilities are endless and the cost savings are going to be incredible if we can do this at an enterprise scale, but that’s just step one,” said Gus Taveras, DIA CTO. “True innovation is asking how we will do this in deployed environment, how do we extend this capability beyond? How do we do this in a mobile environment and still maintain the same security?”

That concept of innovation is behind many of DIA’s highest-profile efforts, whether in mobility, IT or research and development. Combined with collaboration across the intelligence and defense communities, as well as with industry, innovation is the name of the game as DIA officials grapple with declining budgets and the breakneck demand for the latest technology.

“We’ve leveraged an existing capability that was in place, but it started with the core model of asking the question ‘why?’ Why is it that we can’t do wireless here in the building?” said Dan Doney, DIA chief innovation officer. “We leveraged models, looked at what other folks were doing, conceiving of and thinking about, and we tackled it with great focus on overcoming the core issue, which is transmitting things securely. Now we’ve opened up a whole realm of new possibilities…that’s the innovation model, asking the core questions and tackling them.”

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