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 on the organization.

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 review panel, wrote in a preface to the report.

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

"In many ways, In-Q-Tel is a pioneering effort by the CIA and Congress to accelerate acquisition and integration of new technologies for intelligence," Meador added in a written statement accompanying the public release of the report. "There are some management challenges that need to be addressed before In-Q-Tel is a total success, but this enterprise is off to an impressive start."

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.

Other recommendations include:

    * The director of central intelligence must make CIA leadership accountable for encouraging and nurturing a cultural change that accepts solutions from the "outside world."

    * 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.

    * 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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