Human barriers still holding back full information sharing

Human factors, not technology, continue to be the major impediments to information sharing among Defense and intelligence agencies, a former intelligence analyst said.

“The technology solution is relatively easy but the cultural, bureaucratic and psychological factors are more difficult,” said Mark Kagan, research manager at IDC Government Insights and a former National Security Agency and Defense Intelligence Agency analyst, during a Women in Technology meeting June 28.

For Priscilla Guthrie, director of the Information Technology and Systems Division at the Institute for Defense Analyses, the goal of information sharing should not be to develop a national command-and-control capability that encompasses federal, state, local and tribal agencies.

“Those are words that may not play well in civilian agencies,” said Guthrie, a former Defense Department deputy chief information officer. “It will require decision makers to come together pre-event to engage other departments and agencies.”

Such a scheme would include organizational and technological components, she said.

The Defense Intelligence Agency is trying to make that happen by assessing how Web 2.0 technologies can facilitate more and faster collaboration, said Brenda Smith, DIA’s knowledge management division chief.

“We are looking at wiki technologies, tweaking them and applying our businesses processes to them,” she said. “Wikis make it is easier for individuals to contribute their opinions and the final product is created over a shorter timeline.”

Smith added that information sharing is now one of the key metrics by which DIA employees are evaluated on their contribution to the agency.

For Guthrie, the organizational and technological elements of information sharing must be considered together.

“It is no longer possible to consider technology separately,” she said. “We need to put it into the planning. We can’t address it separately or as an afterthought. The goal must be to make it possible to get information to everyone technically and to be able to prohibit access through policy.”

Kagan emphasized the opposite side of the coin.

“The political, psychological and bureaucratic factors have to be embedded in the design from of any solution from the beginning,” he said. “They can’t be bolted on later or you won’t be as successful as you think.”

Buxbaum is a freelancer writer based in Bethesda, Md.

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