GTE software fosters virtual intell community
- By Dan Verton
- Sep 27, 1998
The Defense Intelligence Agency last week awarded a contract for a key piece of an estimated $200 million project that will give intelligence analysts across the globe an unprecedented capability to work together on information, collaborating in real time.
Under the $18 million contract, GTE Government Systems Corp. will install and maintain up to 6,000 copies of its InfoWorkSpace collaboration software at intelligence centers throughout the Defense Department. The software makes it possible for multiple analysts to view and manipulate images and information simultaneously.
GTE's software provides one of the underpinnings for the Joint Intelligence Virtual Architecture. First envisioned in 1996, JIVA will incorporate advanced high-tech tools for collecting, analyzing and disseminating data.
"This really kick-starts the entire process," said Army Col. Reed Huff, the JIVA integration management officer at DIA. "We're now fielding a [solution] that, in conjunction with other [tools] and virtual organizational alignments, will allow us to establish an initial operational capability by January ."
Also, DIA has invested $50 million in Asynchronous Transfer Mode communications networks to provide the high-speed bandwidth to support real-time collaboration.
GTE's InfoWorkSpace will provide analysts with a browser-based work environment that is always available to users, said Tom Gandy, GTE's program manager for InfoWorkSpace and the JIVA collaborative environment.
Through either Netscape Communications Corp.'s Netscape Navigator or Microsoft Corp.'s Internet Explorer World Wide Web browsers, analysts will have access to a host of intelligence databases and collaboration tools, including electronic whiteboards, threaded discussion tools, conferencing applications, bulletin boards, and voice and data chat tools.
InfoWorkSpace and the JIVA architecture will facilitate what Huff and Gandy refer to as "communities of interest," where analysts and other subject matter experts can collaborate on specific projects without regard to geography.
"The philosophy is: 'Let's get information into the hands of the people who use it,' " Gandy said. Until now, the community has had to deal with the "tyranny" of the systems specialists when trying to access information, he said. "InfoWorkSpace was designed for complex communities like the intelligence community."
DIA included many of the national intelligence agencies in the software selection process, according to Huff. "We found a lot of commonality between ourselves and CIA, the [National Security Agency] and the National Imagery and Mapping Agency," Huff said.
These agencies, along with the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency and the Defense Information Systems Agency, were represented on "user juries" that evaluated the software's capabilities, Huff said. "In some cases, we even used their standards," he said.
The baseline collaboration tool for JIVA will provide more than just a means for analysts to share information. InfoWorkSpace also will act as the springboard for DIA's distance-learning and training efforts, according to Huff. Next year, DIA plans to establish a virtual university using the same tools and interfaces for training that analysts will rely on during their day-to-day operations.
"It allows you to use group dynamics in training, which we haven't been able to do in the past," Huff said. "JIVA is really looking for a capability to launch a larger [business] process [through] collaboration."
According to Randy Brooks, GTE's director of command, control, communications, computers, intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance, the company is building a virtual university capable of supporting as many as 1,000 students and multiple instructors. The Army Intelligence Center and School at Fort Huachuca, Ariz., was one of the early adopters of the technology in its 1994 "Schoolhouse Without Walls" initiative, Brooks said.
Keeping All Forces Ready
Initiatives such as the one at Fort Huachuca also serve as models for keeping the "total force" of active-duty, National Guard and Reserve personnel trained and ready, Brooks said.
"Now you can keep Guard and Reserve forces trained at the same level as the active-duty force...[and] it's affordable," he said.
Since its release in May, GTE's InfoWorkSpace software has been installed at the U.S. Atlantic Command, the CIA's Foreign Broadcast Information Service and NSA.
"JIVA recognizes that there are problems that need fixing," said John Pike, a defense and intelligence analyst with the Federation of American Scientists.
The problems surfaced recently when analysts took "the better part of a week" to determine whether North Korea launched a missile or a satellite. That case "clearly indicates that analysts operating in different agencies [and] at different locations need vastly improved collaboration tools," Pike said.
However, according to Pike, too many of the collaboration problems JIVA is trying to solve are the result of institutional and bureaucratic efforts to keep things separate.
"I don't think that there are any simple software or architecture fixes to these problems," Pike said.