When the Intelligence Community Information Technology Enterprise (IC ITE) was formed in 2012, it was regarded as the largest IT transformation in the history of the IC, focused on enabling integration, information sharing and safeguarding, and creating efficiency across our nation’s intelligence agencies.
“The first epoch was really about a new way of doing business in the IC,” said John Sherman, assistant DNI and IC Chief Information Officer. “It is the biggest shift we can imagine, bringing the IC and its systems and technologies together in an integrated way to prevent another 9/11 or some future attack. It was a major cultural shift to do this.”
Sherman spoke to an audience of roughly 80 people during the United States Geospatial Intelligence Foundation’s (USGIF) GEOINTeraction Tuesday event on March 12 about major priorities for what he calls the “second epoch” of the ongoing IC ITE construct.
Sherman credits former Director of National Intelligence James Clapper and former Principal Deputy Director of National Intelligence Stephanie O’Sullivan for having the vision and tenacity to launch IC ITE and with that, producing things like the commercial cloud and IC GovCloud. Sherman views his responsibility is to continue to build upon these advancements by prioritizing five pillars moving into the second epoch.
Regarding agility, the move to the cloud has enabled analysts to do things we would have thought crazy just a few years ago. Sherman plans to further modernize capabilities by doing modern data extraction, correlational and enrichment technologies.
“We’re going to pursue best in breed technologies wherever we can find them, such as next gen compute, high-performance compute, and high-performance analytics to make sure the IC can be more proactive and not reactive,” Sherman said. “When I talk about agility, it’s really for our workforce; the men and women out on the ops floor. They have to be able to move with more quickness than our adversaries.”
Sherman recently launched a cyber security implementation plan with three critical steps: know your network, secure it, then share the state of the enterprise. Most CIOs only have vision into about 2/3 of their enterprise. By launching an end-to-end inventory of IT and data, Sherman hopes to eliminate backrooms and shadow IT that are areas of vulnerability. The IC Security Coordination center is the focal point for sharing information about malicious activity against IC systems.
“This has been a paradigm shift to get agencies to share information because I can tell you, a threat against NGA or NRO could just as easily appear for CIA,” Sherman said.
Just as our colleagues at the DoD need weapons systems to be able to work together, we’ve got to be able to have our IC systems interoperable. By gathering the chief architects from all agencies and implementing reference architectures, Sherman is assuring that money is no longer being invested in systems that won’t work across all agencies. At the end of the day, analysts need their systems to work to get the best data to inform their analysis or collection.
Whatever capabilities we deploy, our officers must be able to use them. Often when we deploy new technologies, people feel left behind. This is especially critical as new technologies such as artificial intelligence (AI) and machine learning (ML) are deployed.
“My biggest fear is that we have a transformational technology involving AI or ML and we get it out on the floor, and it doesn’t work well enough and we sour the workforce against it,” Sherman said. “That could be the thing that allows us to get inside the turn circle or decision cycle that we have to get inside of. We can’t lose the faith of those women and men out there on the floor.”
Moving from a CapEx model to an OpEx has been one of the biggest accomplishments in the first epoch of IC ITE. By leveraging new technology, getting off old legacy systems, and leveraging enterprise agreements with industry, things can be done more affordably for the government and tax payers.
Ultimately, Sherman wants decision advantage for our policy makers and war fighters. He was in the White House Situation Room on 9/11 and remembers the difficult days that followed.
“The threats are new, and we have different adversaries, but we’ll never forget what happened on that Tuesday morning,” Sherman said. “I want us to look ahead. I want us thinking about those adversaries that mean to do us harm right now. I’m asking you to work together and move with that same alacrity and same unity of purpose that we had 18 years ago.”