CIA's In-Q-Tel still proving its worth

The Report of the Independent Panel on the CIA In-Q-Tel Venture

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The customer base for In-Q-Tel, the CIA's new research and development organization, should not be expanded to the other intelligence agencies until it proves successful within the CIA, according to a new report.

In-Q-Tel (www.in-q-tel.com) was incorporated in 1999 to help the CIA remain on technology's cutting edge. It is comparable to a strategic venture capital entity, such as those maintained by major technology firms. It has only one customer—the CIA—and does not develop technologies for the agency's classified missions.

So far, In-Q-Tel has spent $30 million on technology projects, reviewed 750 business plans, selected nearly two dozen for investment and brought three products to the pilot stage.

Congress had mandated a broad assessment of In-Q-Tel's strategy, structure, processes, technologies and legal foundation. Business Executives for National Security conducted the assessment and released a mostly favorable report Aug. 7.

"I would note for the record that several members of this panel from a variety of industry sectors approached this assessment process with what I would describe as an initial reaction of skepticism and concern about the basic In-Q-Tel business model from a policy, legal and competitive perspective," C. Lawrence Meador, chairman of the independent panel, wrote in a preface to the report.

The panel concluded, however, that "the In-Q-Tel business model makes sense, and its progress to date is impressive for a 2-year-old venture."

The panel recommended that In-Q-Tel's mission should not be expanded beyond the CIA "until it is deemed a success in its CIA mission," but it should share technology solutions applicable to other government agencies, especially within the intelligence community.

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Other recommendations from the panel's report:

* The CIA should immediately assess how well its information technology

strategy is aligned with its business strategy, including all elements of

mission, goals, objectives and critical success factors.

* The CIA and In-Q-Tel should form an intelligence technology oversight

panel consisting of the executive director, the chief scientist, deputy

directors, assistant directors of central intelligence and the chief information

officer to facilitate communication between the two organizations.

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