Young feds bring intell changes

A workforce bought up to use collaboration tools is making the CIA Web 2.0-savvy

CHICAGO — Change doesn’t come easy for the intelligence community. But a combination of failures and a younger workforce’s expectations have thrust the 16 federal intelligence agencies into a Darwinian situation — evolve or die.

Urged to take action by a new generation of employees, federal intelligence agencies are moving to Web 2.0 social-networking tools to improve collaboration and analysis of intelligence information.

“How do you transform analysis?” asked Thomas Fingar, deputy director of national intelligence for analysis at the Office of the Director of National Intelligence (ODNI). “One word: attitude. For people to collaborate and bring new and vital skills to the intelligence community, we need to change our attitude.”

A younger workforce and fallout from the failures of the Iraq war and 2001 terrorist attacks demonstrated the need for a change in attitude, Fingar said during a speech at the Analytic Transformation conference, sponsored by the Intelligence and National Security Alliance.

Fingar said 60 percent of all U.S. intelligence analysts have five years’ experience or less on the job. They expect to collaborate no matter where they are and without concern for chain of command, he said. “There is a sense of urgency, a push from the bottom that didn’t exist before.”
Fingar said intelligence failures proved the need to transform intelligence analysis.

“Analysts have become risk-averse and because of that, many times that attitude precludes good analysis,” Fingar said. “We have had more than one major problem every decade since Pearl Harbor. We fail because we are not willing to collaborate or accept the risks of collaboration.”

The CIA is taking the lead on a number of transformational initiatives. For example, the agency initiated CIA Wire, a program that takes all the agency’s intelligence information and makes it available to CIA analysts in one database.

CIA Wire, which the agency launched Sept. 7, will become part of the Library of National Intelligence (LNI), an intelligence community initiative to create a comprehensive database of intelligence information. LNI will launch by Oct. 31, said Gus Hunt, the CIA’s executive agent for LNI.

“It boggles my mind that it took so long to understand the concept of bringing together all the community knowledge to use effectively,” Hunt said. “LNI will let users on the top-secret network share information that was agreed to be released. We now will know [all that] we know about any topic.”

Hunt said LNI will be a one-stop shop for all intelligence information that the community has agreed to share. “Now analysts must go to multiple systems to find data and then bring it all together,” he said.

Dale Meyerrose, ODNI’s chief information officer, said LNI will make all information discoverable, and that is just the starting point. “The pedigree we need to add to data and discovery is huge. It is larger than LNI. The finished product must include intelligence information and open-source information.”

The Defense Intelligence Agency is leading the development of A-Space, a version of MySpace for federal spy agencies. It will link all intelligence agencies virtually to share information across the top-secret network. Mike Wertheimer, assistant deputy director of national intelligence for analytic transformation and technology at ODNI, said A-Space will give analysts the ability to search all intelligence information that agencies make available via Web services and secure e-mail.

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