IG: More intell integration needed

The Office of the Director of National Intelligence needs to further integrate the information technology systems of the country's intelligence agencies to overcome impediments to information sharing, according to ODNI’s inspector general.

IG Edward Maguire published his findings in a report dated Nov. 12, 2008. The report was released to the public April 1. In it, he lists several areas in which ODNI should focus efforts to improve integration across the intelligence community.

The office was established in 2004 to improve information sharing among intelligence agencies. ODNI’s overall integration effort involves linking or consolidating the many IT systems that intelligence agencies use to collect, store, share and analyze information, and manage finances.

The report states that IGs from ODNI and other intelligence agencies found that IT systems are:

  • Largely disconnected and incompatible.
  • Operate on multiple networks that are not interoperable.
  • Lack a standard architecture for the storage and retrieval of sensitive intelligence information.
  • Remain vulnerable.

The report also said there was confusion among the intelligence community’s employees about ODNI’s mission, roles and responsibilities.

Mike McConnell, former director of national intelligence, signed a directive in January that sets the policy behind ODNI’s ongoing integration program focused on IT. That program is intended to link the intelligence community’s largest foreign intelligence databases, make data more readily available across agencies and consolidate agencies’ e-mail systems.

Officials have said the program will greatly increase the amount of data available to analysts, thereby improving their ability to identify and block threats.

According to the IG's report, the most critical management challenges ODNI faces are:

  • Strengthening leadership over the intelligence community.
  • Improving information sharing across intelligence agencies.
  • Removing blocks to interagency collaboration and integration.
  • Improving the oversight of financial management and acquisition.
  • Resolving legal issues.

ODNI said Dennis Blair, the new director of national intelligence, has reviewed the IG’s findings and the progress McConnell made in addressing some of the management problems.

“Since taking over as the leader of the intelligence community at the end of January, Director Blair has built on these improvements by bringing in new leadership and implementing numerous changes to improve and streamline communications and management functions,” ODNI officials wrote in their response to the IG’s report. “The [director of national intelligence] strongly believes that the [intelligence community] workforce is second to none and that they deserve the resources and support necessary to carry out their critical national security responsibilities.”

About the Author

Ben Bain is a reporter for Federal Computer Week.

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