An Agile Intelligence Enterprise Offers Needed Flexibility

By working together as a single enterprise, the intelligence community can achieve the agility needed to address the chaotic international environment and myriad challenges of the 21st century.

Many complex public and private organizations have already successfully applied new management and organizational concepts to achieve the agility that operating in an increasingly chaotic environment demands. Recently, the national security enterprise, particularly its intelligence segment, has been grappling with the challenges of evolving a more agile intelligence community in the coming decade. Though the vision of a more agile intelligence enterprise has been generally accepted little definition exists of specifically how this vision can be realized. More definition is needed for the Defense Department and the intelligence community to transform vision into reality.

A major first step to achieving the requisite agility is for the entire intelligence community to adopt a common operational concept with associated common doctrine, policies and procedures, and to develop a clear understanding of the organizational relationships among enterprise components. Only then can the federal government justify investing additional scarce resources in intelligence information systems.

Some basic characteristics of this agile enterprise are apparent. This enterprise must be well managed and organized, and it must dynamically change its form to adapt to the challenges of its environment. It must operate across horizontal inter-organizational planes to provide information, expertise and supporting services unconstrained by vertical organizational structures that can hinder its objective.

Though these vertical structures may be necessary to manage resources, they should not interfere with dynamic interaction among enterprise component entities. Each component must interact with other components to exploit common information infrastructure and information processing services. This must be achieved in accordance with established enterprise-wide policies, doctrine and procedures supporting a common overall operational concept.

To attain the goal of an agile intelligence enterprise, planners would base intelligence investments on a common orientation framework of systems and services managed in a dynamic environment. This would enable the agility envisioned by the overall operational concept. Such a framework must include not only a common, adaptive, distributed virtual work environment spanning the enterprise, but also core professional capabilities that span the various disciplines involved in intelligence functions. This requires comprehensive, enterprise-wide professional training and education to gather the necessary core capabilities for performing each operational function. The training program would focus on teaching users to work with the enterprise-wide information tools and infrastructure.

However, to provide the essential core capabilities consistently and reliably, the tools and infrastructure must be integrated in a consistent manner across all enterprise components. These core capabilities must include a series of elements built around a consistent security management infrastructure, which in turn must be based on common security policies and procedures.

Essential capabilities include a common high-capacity, multimedia and multiple security level telecommunications infrastructure; a set of collaborative analytical and production tools, including distributed directory services in a common operating environment; and a set of standard distributed and dynamically manageable hierarchical multimedia information repositories in a shared data environment.

In addition to a common telecommunications infrastructure and operating environment and a shared data environment, the intelligence community will need a more comprehensive set of capabilities that are consistently integrated across all enterprise components. This is essential to enable and expedite evolution to a more agile intelligence enterprise in the 21st century.

An adaptive, distributed virtual workspace is necessary to obtain synergy and leverage from multiple disciplines and perspectives. This is especially true if components are continuously interacting from multiple geographical locations to address myriad needs of intelligence consumers who are using the common telecommunications infrastructure, information processing tools and multimedia data repositories.

Security management requirements are a major cost driver for essential supporting information systems and services. It is vital to invest in an enterprise-wide security management infrastructure (SMI). Planners should agree to an adaptive SMI that is responsive to well-defined policies establishing rules of classification levels and need-to-know criteria. This infrastructure must be installed and maintained consistently across the enterprise.

This SMI requires a universal method of "tagging" information elements as well as people and machines so that information may be linked to the specific people and machines that produce the knowledge needed by intelligence consumers. Policy makers must establish consistent inter-organization, discipline, function and domain security policies and procedures to guide the application of that SMI and to enable adaptive processes by which maximum sharing of information-and information about information-can be achieved. These security policies cannot become oppressive and burdensome, and the supporting SMI must be streamlined to the maximum extent possible, with minimal categories of separation and services. Knowledge of the location and custodian of information is needed, where possible, even if the prospective user is not cleared for the actual information. This will enable those negotiations necessary to establish need-to-know and other attributes that might lead to sharing some information that is not otherwise releasable.

Another element essential to the enterprise SMI is directory services integrated with automated security certification tools.

These directory services enable disseminating knowledge across the enterprise of exactly what information, services, expertise and other capabilities are available. Directories of producers, users and related information repositories allow users to rapidly identify them and interconnect. Information from varying sets of communities of interest (COIs) may become relevant to particular needs, projects, activities or situations. Emerging X.500 and lightweight directory access protocol (LDAP) standard directories may be linked, even if only virtually, to respond rapidly to changing requirements. Next, the enterprise should institute services to provide memory mapping of such relationships, including expertise and other attributes and resources applicable to specific disciplines and functions.

The intelligence information collection management process in a more agile intelligence enterprise must include maximum communication of intelligence information requirements. This is essential to provide knowledge of the widest possible range of potential information providers in order to best exploit potential information sources. A more agile intelligence enterprise must also be able to apply the best possible information, talent and capabilities to an emerging situation, regardless of their physical locations, organizational relationships or other domain definitions. Again, directories across the enterprise must enable rapid identification and dynamic access to data/information, knowledgeable people, offices and machines.

Collaboration among intelligence information users and providers provides optimal services, but it requires appropriate supporting information infrastructures, automated information processing tools and multimedia information repositories. It also requires a guiding concept of operations with supporting doctrine, policies, procedures and organizational relationships to enable that collaboration across a distributed virtual workspace.

Users must know about information at all hierarchical levels and be able to access it either as an end product or as raw material for tailored multimedia products. Information collection services and repositories as well as the tools and expertise to apply them in producing needed knowledge products must be dynamically linked and configurable in virtual COI subnetworks. This would enable focusing particularly important information, talent and other related capabilities at locations distributed geographically and across organizations.

To share these valuable resources, relationships would be dynamically realigned upon completion of a project or activity. This would be done by interconnection to multiple COIs where applicable. These virtual subnetworks would be activated across an enterprise intranet that transcends stovepipe functional organizations and dedicated service mechanisms.

Users must have information about information to enable learning. They must know many facts or statistics to continuously improve the management of information and related resources. This includes improving the availability of tools to best exploit information in all its forms and applications. Multidimensional arrays of information about information, its use, its relationship to other information and requirements for information must be propagated and continuously updated to enable a more agile intelligence enterprise.

In addition to the use of directories to dynamically identify linkages, standardized extensible markup language (XML) information element formats can help identify linkages within the data or information element itself. Use of the XML standard for publishing to support multiple applications may enable the availability of both "atomic" raw information/data elements and finished multimedia electronic intelligence products in common information repositories.

The common data/information environment of the agile intelligence enterprise must be based on a common data model that enables integration of electronically accessible products using information in many formats. These formats may include hypertext markup language (HTML), standard generalized markup language (SGML), virtual reality modeling language (VRML) and relational database management system (RDBMS), for example. This approach is consistent with progress being made in the Defense Department to establish a shared data environment across the entire defense information infrastructure.

Another factor in determining the success of this enterprise involves organizational relationships. Experts planning for a more agile intelligence enterprise must determine the appropriate mix and level of management oversight and review.

Minimal intrusion in the adaptive streamlining of processes is essential. Management should be limited primarily to monitoring and enabling the appropriate dynamic distribution of resources across the enterprise with minimal interruption to services and workflow to users. Implementation of such a model requires consistent, well understood and mutually acceptable, but adaptive, organizational relationships.

However, training is essential to such an enterprise. A corps of intelligence professionals with the necessary basic competencies is needed across all disciplines and functions. Generally, a more agile intelligence enterprise is built around a set of information management services linking information and people and machines trained or programmed to apply that information as knowledge. This requires that the information be made known to people with the appropriate training, education and experience to apply it effectively and efficiently to produce knowledge.

In addition, incentives should exist to motivate these professionals to take the risk to be innovative in applying their skills and the capabilities of the information systems made available to them. The agile intelligence enterprise would establish such incentives for increased efforts and exposure to risk. The entire enterprise would benefit from innovative measures that reveal new capabilities and opportunities and synergistically improve the use of available resources. This is essential for the more agile intelligence enterprise to continuously improve itself and adapt to a chaotic environment

A more agile intelligence enterprise ultimately must be a learning enterprise that constantly identifies its weaknesses, shortfalls and redundancies. By making compensatory adjustments to improve itself, based on experience, it continuously streamlines its mobilization of resources to efficiently focus its capabilities. To facilitate optimal exploitation, with least overhead and delay, of all enterprise resources and capabilities, knowledge-based hypertext and other automated hypermedia linkages should connect users, producers and -multimedia information in shared repositories. Linkages, much like synapses of biological organisms, must continuously and dynamically update themselves, as do learning organisms.