DoDIIS App Engine: Simple Application of the Intelligence Agency’s Shared Architecture

Published on July 30, 2014

In the staged, deliberate move toward an integrated system, it’s clear that establishing the Intelligence Community’s Information Technology Enterprise, the platform on which the IC’s 17 members can share information and use the products of that sharing, is only part of the battle.

As long as there has been military intelligence in the U.S.¸ and that pre-dates the Revolutionary War¸ individuals and organizations have gone about the information-gathering business in different ways, creating stovepipes of both data and method. Sharing means turning those stovepipes toward each other¸ but that turning can result in a Tower of Babel mishmash of techniques that defy meshing and, therefore, general use.

To create the kind of integrated intelligence required in the aftermath of 9-11, and demanded by Director of National Intelligence James Clapper and others, tools are needed to offer a sort of glossary to penetrate that Tower to get at its intelligence core.

That’s the aim of the Defense Intelligence Agency’s DoDIIS App Engine (DAE) program.

It comes in the wake of DIA’s cloud infrastructure and the agency’s pathway to transition to IC ITE.

“The problem is that in the past couple of years, we’ve been so focused on moving the cloud, we’ve forgotten the end users downrange,” said Matt Carroll, who is heading up data consolidation for DIA, to a group of engineers and defense industry officials at the GEOINT 2013* symposium in Tampa in April. “We need to provide the new capabilities, new analytics to make smarter decisions.”

DAE is trying to do just that.

The DIA is charged with leveraging the IC ITE (PAAS) and infrastructure (IAAS) to deploy mission applications to their stakeholders by 2015, a daunting task when you consider that the agency has about 230,000 users worldwide, with more than 1,000 sources of data and hundreds of applications.  As stated by the DIA CTO Gus Taveras, “Technology plus Mission equals capability…we have to focus on rapidly delivering capability to our end users in a simplified way that leverages the future vision of modern computing in the IC.” Accomplishing the mission involves creating and supporting a common software development kit (SDK) to support injecting, querying and storage of mission data in the cloud.

Retrieving that data while honoring security standards is always a key in the intelligence arena.

To accomplish so daunting a task requires, perhaps surprisingly, simplicity. In IT, simplicity is best accomplished when data can be visualized.

Said Carroll:  “It’s not about the application. It’s about the data.”

That visualization is being facilitated with products that generate maps and other geospatial creations. Such visualization allows penetration of the Tower of Babel that IC ITE could become by building products that foster a common understanding of uses across Intelligence Community boundaries – regardless of the source of that information or the method by which it was created.

By indexing data spatially and fusing it with maps and other aids to visualization, a common language for gathering and using intelligence can be created, and that is a key to success in integrating the products of 17 different stovepipes, turned inward and working together.

As the pace quickens toward the 2015 deadline for implementation, the value of this visualization becomes more apparent, and so does the need for tools to facilitate it. It’s the way toward winning the user battle – the last step of the intelligence integration war.

“The bottom line is that we have to make changes,” said Dan Doney, DIA’s chief innovation officer, who acknowledged the difficulty in data getting from the stovepipes to mesh. “We have to fix the way this is done, and the time is nigh. We have one opportunity to get this right, while everything is changing, while we’ve got agreement across the community. We can’t miss this opportunity to change the way we do business.”




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