Standards developed within the framework of the Defense Intelligence Information Enterprise (DI2E) are facilitating interoperability and information sharing among key defense intelligence activities such as the Distributed Common Ground System (DCGS), according to participants at a recent government/industry demonstration.
The second annual DI2E Plugfest and Mashup Challenge, organized by the Association for Enterprise Information and hosted by the C4I Center at George Mason University (GMU), brought together some 30 vendor companies and hundreds of attendees to explore the role of standards and specifications in improving capabilities that turn collected data into intelligence information.
The centerpiece of the event was a competition in which three teams showed their expertise in connecting and integrating sensor feeds and industry-provided software capabilities to present a complete intelligence picture. The competitors were a team of GMU students, a group representing the DCGS-Special Operations Forces, and the winner, the Counter-Narcotics Information Sharing Team.
DI2E, a framework for interoperability and governance that unites Department of Defense intelligence programs, has received increasing attention of late as the bridge between two major IT restructuring efforts: DoD’s Joint Information Environment and the Intelligence Community Information Technology Enterprise, which is being overseen by the Office of the Director of National Intelligence.
As David L. De Vries, DoD acting principal deputy chief information officer, observed, the goal is to help answer the fundamental questions facing all intelligence information: “How do I know about the data, how do I share it, and how do I combine things to produce a different picture? And how can I uniquely display it, hopefully on a portable device?”
De Vries added that the department should do more mashups and plugfests, taking advantage of a popular IT event format that brings together developers to test the interoperability of their products.
Importance of Standards
During the event, a panel of intelligence managers offered insights into the needs of DI2E program users, especially the various DCGS components, and how industry can respond effectively.
George “Dan” Doney, chief innovation officer for the Defense Intelligence Agency (DIA), emphasized the importance of paying attention to standards. “If folks don’t develop to standards, and industry does not use them in things they provide to the government, and the government does not respect and buy standards based capabilities, there is no point to a standard. What we have now is a very non-standardized, fragmented environment. The reason why we haven’t seen the emergence of true universal standards across government is because they are so obscure at this point,” he said.
In conjunction with DI2E, Doney noted, DIA is pursuing a nontraditional way of operating focused on closing the information gap between intelligence community customers and companies that would like to do business with them. The agency is launching outreach efforts to that end, including setting up a new Open Innovation Gateway designed to give innovators the opportunity to showcase capabilities in a realistic emulation of the operational environment.
For Colonel Charles Wells, project manager for the Army’s version of DCGS, the top priority is to make the system easier to use. “We’ve got powerful capabilities, but they have a learning curve and take time to learn and use,” he said. “You didn’t have to go to a training class to learn to use your smartphone or tablet. Our intel systems should be the same way. These systems should be intuitive. Our analysts should be able to train as they go, and do powerful analysis in a short period of time. What I want to do is get more ease of use into the program. We’ve done that in the latest release of DCGS-Army, but I want to keep doing that and getting more ease of use.”
Charles J. Gassert Jr., assistant program manager for DCGS-Navy, urged his service to take a more proactive approach to generating intelligence.
“In the Navy, we have to make a big adjustment of our mindset, Gassert said. “Historically, we have always been consumers, but sooner or later the data just falls on the ground. We have to rectify that, and also teach the Navy to become producers. We have to transition from being just consumers of data to both producers and consumers. That’s going to be our next problem.”
The Marine Corps, meanwhile, is about to field its DCGS component, with initial capability expected within a few months and full operation planned for early 2015, according to Daniel M. Fitzgerald, DCGS product manager for Marine Corps Systems Command. ♦
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