Intelligence

New NGA CIO 'bullish' on IT deployment

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The National Geospatial-Intelligence Agency is the latest member of the IC – after the CIA, NSA and others – to merge its CIO and IT services. The man behind the merger says it will make NGA nimbler on IT acquisition, helping deliver better intelligence to its government customers.

"We are very bullish about being able to quickly deploy IT services and capabilities while we at the same time meet all the security requirements," Douglas McGovern, NGA's newly appointed CIO and director of IT services, said in a recent interview.

NGA Director Robert Cardillo, who took the helm in October, has stressed the need to more quickly adopt advances in IT, according to McGovern. Having the CIO and IT services functions in the same office will help the agency balance speed and security in acquisition, he added.

"Now there's no excuse for the programs and the technology developers trying to avoid or ignore the requirements for certification and accreditation" because the personnel is "all in one shop," McGovern said.

The new CIO said part of his plan for speeding NGA’s deployment of IT services involves assessing which services need extensive help-desk support and which do not. Some applications and widgets, for example, do not need around-the-clock support, he said. "If three people are using it, we don’t need to spend a lot of money trying to support that.”"

Before replacing David White as CIO last month, McGovern headed NGA's R&D arm, giving him a prime view of emerging geospatial technologies. McGovern told FCW that automated analytics and open-source software are among the technologies on his radar as CIO.

"Open-source software capabilities out there are growing in power and use throughout the private sector," he said, adding that he would like to further incorporate those capabilities into classified environments.

NGA has signaled greater emphasis on open-source software recently. The agency in October released open-source gamification software to GitHub, the collaborative software development environment.

Automated analytics is also high on McGovern’s list of IT priorities.

"Heretofore, we've never had the technology that could power those kinds of automated analytics," he said, citing as an example advanced behavior modeling to anticipate terror attacks. "So the automation area is an area that we're very excited about bringing into the real operations."

NGA is not the only federal agency to recently reorganize itself in an effort to keep pace with technological advances. In January, the Defense Information Systems Agency, the Pentagon’s agency for IT infrastructure, overhauled its structure because of a perception that DISA was too slow to respond to industry demands.

McGovern said NGA's private-sector partners are "not shy about highlighting how fast the technology maturation cycles and refresh cycles occur, versus traditional acquisition approaches. So that’s been a constant drumbeat from industry that we’ve heard for some time."

About the Author

Sean Lyngaas is an FCW staff writer covering defense, cybersecurity and intelligence issues. Prior to joining FCW, he was a reporter and editor at Smart Grid Today, where he covered everything from cyber vulnerabilities in the U.S. electric grid to the national energy policies of Britain and Mexico. His reporting on a range of global issues has appeared in publications such as The Atlantic, The Economist, The Washington Diplomat and The Washington Post.

Lyngaas is an active member of the National Press Club, where he served as chairman of the Young Members Committee. He earned his M.A. in international affairs from The Fletcher School of Law and Diplomacy at Tufts University, and his B.A. in public policy from Duke University.

Click here for previous articles by Lyngaas, or connect with him on Twitter: @snlyngaas.


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