DISA net initiative to bridge DOD, intell data

The Defense Information Systems Agency is spearheading an initiative to enable the military and intelligence communities to access the information they need regardless of what agency operates the network on which the data resides.

The Net-Centric Enterprise Services program, which DISA plans to test in an upcoming pilot project, will create a virtual network infrastructure that eliminates the existing system-by-system approach of storing and searching for information, Defense Department officials said.

"It's about the data... and how do we get all of those command and control and [intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance] systems out of the stovepipes and into a network where it's available to the people who need it," said Rob Walker, DISA's program manager for the pilot project.

As a cornerstone of network-centric operations, DOD officials want data posted online as soon as it is available.

Currently, data gets posted only after it has been analyzed. Under the new process, data will be posted first, letting warfighters decide what information they need and how to process it. In the meantime, a more detailed analysis will be conducted and posted when it is available.

"We want to process and use [data] in parallel," said DOD chief information officer John Stenbit.

The initiative will give warfighters a full view of the battlefield and enable them to conduct precision searches and pull out just the data they need, said Dawn Meyerriecks, DISA's chief technology officer.

DISA officials envision situations in which unmanned aerial vehicles doing battlefield surveillance would post information to discovery and storage services. A messaging system would alert the soldiers who need the information.

Soldiers would then pull the data from storage. If they needed more information, they could contact subject matter experts at the CIA or another agency through the messaging system and even communicate with those experts using collaboration software.

"We need to think differently about the way we use the resources at our disposal," said Walker, speaking last week as part of a panel discussion at the Council of Security and Strategic Technology Organizations conference in Arlington, Va.

However, some experts believe the new system will face obstacles. According to John Pike, director of GlobalSecurity.org, which monitors space and military programs, "Multilevel security remains the Holy Grail of military and intelligence computer networks and remains far easier to seek than to find.

"Actual implementations are not cheap, and [they face] fundamental and potentially intractable epistemological barriers to genuine success," he said.

Christopher J. Dorobek contributed to this report.

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