Clapper memo outlines ICITE architecture

James Clapper

Director of National Intelligence James Clapper’s top IT priorities include reducing duplicative spending and corralling and securing the nation's intelligence data. In accordance with those goals, a network that would span the 17 agencies in the intelligence community has been in the works since 2011.

Now an unclassified but previously restricted 2013 memorandum describing the system’s goals and architecture sheds a little more light on the effort. It is available thanks to an open-government request by Steven Aftergood, who directs the Project on Government Secrecy at the Federation of American Scientists.

The Intelligence Community Information Technology Enterprise is designed to provide a cloud-based, common desktop environment for intelligence agencies. It will offer an app store, network engineering services, and a method for identifying and authenticating users. The goal is to make information available at the touch of a button -- but only to the right people with the right access.

"Tag the people, tag the data" has been Clapper's refrain since plans for the effort were first announced.

The system is designed to avoid physical restrictions on data. "Any necessary separation of data within ICITE shall be achieved through a logical construct instead of by physical separation to the greatest extent possible and in accordance with applicable legal and policy requirements," the memo states.

ICITE is also designed to eliminate the problems associated with individual agencies controlling individual networks. Efforts to end IT turf battles and silos are facing some pushback, however: David Shedd, former acting director of the Defense Intelligence Agency, told FCW in March that the main hurdle to ICITE adoption was cultural resistance.

"I don't even think it's technological, and it's not budget," Shedd said.

Early efforts were supposed to focus on building the ICITE infrastructure. Once the system is deployed, subsequent improvements would establish more integration and analytical capability for end users. Shedd estimated that some early capabilities would go online in the next two to three years, but said it would likely be five years before ICITE was fully in place.

In a June speech, Clapper said 28,000 of the common desktops had been deployed, and he was hopeful that a total of 50,000 would be released by the end of 2016.

At the time, Clapper said the foundation for ICITE was in place. "We have a working government cloud and a commercial cloud, and we have hundreds of millions of records in the cloud from the big six agencies and others," he said.

About the Author

Adam Mazmanian is executive editor of FCW.

Before joining the editing team, Mazmanian was an FCW staff writer covering Congress, government-wide technology policy and the Department of Veterans Affairs. Prior to joining FCW, Mazmanian was technology correspondent for National Journal and served in a variety of editorial roles at B2B news service SmartBrief. Mazmanian has contributed reviews and articles to the Washington Post, the Washington City Paper, Newsday, New York Press, Architect Magazine and other publications.

Click here for previous articles by Mazmanian. Connect with him on Twitter at @thisismaz.


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