Stratcom takes a page from Wikipedia
- By Josh Rogin
- Oct 19, 2006
The Strategic Knowledge Integration-Web, known as SKI-web, is the Strategic Command’s 24-hour operations and intelligence meeting place. Using a Wikipedia-style approach, the program eliminates the chain of information and lets warfighters collaborate, regardless of their rank or position.
SKI-web has expanded to include interagency efforts, such as earthquake support in Hawaii, hurricane support and homeland security efforts. The tool can provide situational awareness to senior leaders when responding to threats of weapons of mass destruction, such as North Korea’s recent nuclear test. Warfighters in Iraq are supplying and receiving intelligence information via the system.
The program is breaking down the barriers on information sharing in classified settings. SKI-web is replacing the long-held concept of “need to know” with a “need-to-share” mentality, Stratcom officials said.
“We have created SKI-web right now so that anybody can access everything,” said J.J. Reich, Stratcom’s chief knowledge officer, who helped develop the program. “We have pulled the pendulum from one side to the other side.”
Everyone who can access the Defense Department’s Secret IP Router Network can use SKI-web, which was originally designed to track Stratcom internal events, he said. Every issue that requires a major decision is posted on SKI-web, displayed in reverse chronological order. Anyone in the community can comment on it.
SKI-web uses threaded discussions, which leaders refer to as blogging, to share intelligence. Blogging prioritizes speed over accuracy and allows the SKI-web community to be self-governing and self-policing, Reich said.
“We expect and encourage everyone to blog,” said Air Force Lt. Gen. Robert Kehler, Stratcom’s deputy commander, at the AFCEA International TechNet conference in June. "In fact, you buy your way into the blog with the value you add, not the rank you hold.”
The model also flattens the vertical structure of information sharing by linking decision-makers with all levels of employees, Kehler said. “We have a command chain in Stratcom, not an information chain, an infosphere, if you will, within which command is exercised,” he said.
“It’s more important to have some information than no information at all or perfect information late,” he added.
Not everyone at Stratcom likes the new approach. Middle managers no longer process and filter information, forcing them to re-examine their role. “When you give direct access between the subject-matter expert and the senior leader, that leaves the middle management kind of frustrated and kind of scared,” Reich said.
Stratcom is designing SKI-web to work with other DOD collaboration efforts. Features such as a service-oriented architecture and application agnostic data forms will allow SKI-web to maximize other capabilities, Reich said.
“You don’t have to use SKI-web itself to collaborate with use; you could use another application and just consume our data,” he said. Stratcom is looking at ways to link SKI-web with other collaboration environments, such as Army Knowledge Online and the Defense Information Systems Agency's Defense Knowledge Online Web portal.
Stratcom is also building an unclassified version to sit on DOD’s Non-secure IP Router Network and working on a multilevel security database for sorting information to users with different classifications.
The 2006 Quadrennial Defense Review directs all DOD components to break down information stovepipes. “Achieving the full potential of net-centricity requires viewing information as an enterprise to be shared and as weapons system to be protected,” it states.