DOD intelligence mulls digital legal banks

Led by efforts from the National Imagery and Mapping Agency, officials within the Defense Department and military intelligence agencies are conducting preliminary discussions to develop an automated knowledge bank for their intelligence legal offices.

NIMA's General Counsel, Edward Obloy, is gauging interest among his colleagues in DOD and intelligence agencies to create a digital legal bank accessible to all. NIMA is the government's principal provider of images, imagery intelligence and geospatial information in support of national objectives.

The bank would be connected to the Joint Worldwide Intelligence Communications System Network, which provides the intelligence community with secure video and data intelligence. It also would enable the various legal offices to share information and make researching cases easier and faster.

"We're [building a virtual legal center] now, but it is a very nascent effort," Obloy said. "We've got a prototype, and we have a working group from a number of general counsels from the intelligence agencies."

Once the working group irons out a concept of operations for the digital bank, Obloy said he will "pull out my tin cup and go look for money." But he predicted that finding a budget sponsor would not be difficult.

The inspiration for the multiagency legal bank came from NIMA's success in automating its own general counsel's office. Global Management Systems Inc. developed the solution to meet NIMA's needs by combining three software products — from PC Docs Group International Inc., CompInfo and Provenance Systems Inc. — into a single user- friendly system that enabled the general counsel's office to be "more efficient, productive and responsive to its clients," said Joan Mears, a NIMA spokeswoman.

The company's solution garnered enough commercial interest that it recently spun off a subsidiary, Atvantec, to rein in new business. Interest in the intelligence world also is spreading rapidly: The Defense Intelligence Agency general counsel's office is already installing the same technology, and officials from the National Security Agency have visited NIMA to check out its system.

Although the software suite enables NIMA's general counsel's office to operate in a nearly paperless environment, that wasn't the case in the mid-1990s when Obloy first took over the office.

The office lacked an automated multiuser archival and tracking system, and it was easier to re-establish an opinion than to research hard-copy documents. In addition, the staff was being reduced at the same time the workload was increasing.

"I looked at how the workload was being handled in the office, and I knew that if something didn't change, we'd be consumed by it," Obloy said.

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