Managing Intelligence Information

By Ronald D. Elliott


It's no secret that billions of increasingly scarce taxpayer dollars go toward collecting information regarding potential adversaries around the world and real and potential threats to our national security. At the dawning of a new millennium, those threats are becoming ever more sophisticated and difficult to uncover and communicate to proper authorities in the national security enterprise of our Federal Government. Our adversaries to deter and confuse our intelligence collectors and analysts are exploiting modern information technologies.

We must counter an increasingly complex and chaotic global information space by evolving our national intelligence organizations into a more integrated and agile enterprise. In the coming decade, an integrated community of analysts are needed with shared multimedia databases, analytical tools and a common high capacity multiple security level telecommunications infrastructure. Beyond that, organizational boundaries ought to be prevented from hindering the establishment of a continuous distributed (virtual) intelligence environment spanning all intelligence organizations of the Federal Government.

The rapidly expanding and increasingly complex and chaotic global information space must not be permitted to enable adversaries and threats to elude detection or confuse and mislead our analysts. We must increase the "depth and breadth" of our intelligence coverage, understanding and exploiting this new realm of "cyberspace." Our challenges are truly complex, but, not beyond our capacity to overcome, through re-engineering of some processes and improving management of intelligence information, intelligence systems and human professional resources as an enterprise

The Federal Government needs to fundamentally re-engineer current processes whereby multiple separate organizations independently collect, analyze, store and report intelligence information to more modern streamlined and agile processes which exploit the potential of modern information technologies. It should move to a virtual collaborative environment where intelligence information is managed as an enterprise from point of origin to the point it's needed. Throughout the analysis, fusion, storage and reporting phases of the intelligence process, intelligence users and producers need to collaborate in a continuous near real-time. With the mushrooming volumes of global information, intelligence collectors and producers must pay attention to "mining" the information needed by the users to provide them the knowledge they need to make decisions and take actions. Delivering great volumes of increased information may only confuse users, instead, timely knowledge-based information that is in a format which can be rapidly assimilated in the context of relevant decisions and actions must be the objective. This more agile intelligence enterprise must evolve through elimination of physical limitations posed by location, classification levels, and mobility requirements through exploitation of modern information technology and more innovative streamlined enterprise-wide processes.

This enterprise of the Federal Government must manage all its resources, including it's information, to become more efficient and productive in "mining" global information to deliver in a timely manner the knowledge needed by our national security decision-makers at all levels of the government. Those involved in intelligence functions should devise more creative and productive business practices to optimize resource management and exploitation of information technology to "do more with less." In the coming decade, they need to take heed of the Joint Staff's 2010 Vision and be prepared to support "information superiority" by producing and delivering in near real-time the highly customized products and services to be needed in the more complex, dynamic and chaotic national security environment merging. Those products and services must be "knowledge-based," designed to fit rapidly changing user requirements.

Besides the agility to be required by our government in the 21st Century, greatly increased interaction among and integration of intelligence information sources will be needed to enable increased efficiency in relating and reporting information which gives our national security operations the advantage of anticipating, rather than responding to, events and situations. Providing indications and warning of threatening situations by exploiting the expanding global information space will become increasingly difficult. Responding to this challenge will require much greater attention to managing intelligence processes and the rich information resources available to our intelligence professionals as an enterprise.

Greater attention will also be needed in cultivating and nurturing an adaptive intelligence professional corps in the emerging era. The modern intelligence professional must understand not only traditional intelligence skills, but also the concepts of knowledge-based information. This corps of professionals will require continuous training and education throughout their careers and will need to be empowered to discover and apply innovative concepts and procedures to be needed in the dynamic and chaotic environment they and their customers will experience.

To enable these professionals to collaborate among themselves, their sources and their customers, will require a global intelligence information infrastructure enabling maintenance of a distributed (virtual) intelligence environment. This challenge is recognized in the recent Intelligence Community Information Systems Strategic Plan. Though primarily a general statement of objectives and intent to increase the integration of its information systems, it is an excellent first step to guide the evolution to the shared information space to be needed.

One of the handful of objectives of that Plan, and a major hurdle, is management of improvements in security across an integrated information infrastructure encompassing many compartmented communities of interest. Nevertheless, efforts are underway to produce a plan encompassing intelligence systems across the Federal Government to improve information security, consistent with the DoD Information Assurance Program. Integration of all intelligence systems, even interoperability among them all may never be feasible, due to security reasons and limitations of technology; however, the Strategic Plan and information security improvement program plan being produced will expedite efforts to advance interoperability among them.

Community-wide cooperative approaches to the development and use of technology can overcome or at least mitigate many barriers to information management and exchange. Therefore, consistent with recent legislation and policy of the Clinton Administration, intelligence organizations of the Federal Government must redouble their efforts and apply more innovation to foster the management of intelligence information and connectivity of intelligence systems at every stage of the intelligence process - from the identification of requirements, to the tasking of intelligence capabilities, the processing of data, the composition of reports, and the dissemination of tailored products. Investments in systems that provide this integration should increase but spending should stop for those that cannot be put on a path to be integrated with comparable systems. As is appropriately expressed by the Information Systems Strategic Plan, the objective is a more agile intelligence enterprise which can enable our nation to continue achieving its strategic goals and objectives through the increasingly chaotic national security environment emerging from the global "information revolution" of recent decades.

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