The intelligence community launched a bold initiative in 2012 to use cloud services as a way to share between agencies and allow analytics tools to work with the entirety of the information agencies collected.
Those efforts have been successful, John Sherman, the intelligence community’s chief information officer, said at the annual DoDIIS conference in Tampa Aug. 20. Now the intelligence community wants to build on those plans for a new, expanded phase of cloud computing.
As the Central Intelligence Agency prepares to purchase tens of billions of dollars worth of cloud services, the Office of the Director of National Intelligence used the conference to publicly unveil its strategy for cloud computing within the intelligence community.
The new approach calls for an integrated, interoperable, secure cloud system that is reliable, survivable, and accessible from any location under any conditions. In short, the intelligence community wants to use the cloud, artificial intelligence and machine learning to bring the vast data collected by the diverse agencies to the hands of the users who need it, when they need it.
The strategy is the result of a November 2018 meeting of intelligence community deputies and chief information officers to discuss IC ITE, the intelligence community’s effort to use technology to integrate the agencies’ data and technologies.
Based on the changes within IC ITE, the development of tools such as Commercial Cloud Services and IC-GovCloud as well as the growing capabilities of foreign adversaries, the leaders determined they needed a new strategy for cloud computing.
The intelligence community’s two flagship cloud programs are C2S and IC-GovCloud. Acquired through Amazon, C2S is a CIA managed cloud hosting top secret data.
“We’ve enjoyed a true transformation with our move to the cloud, embodied by our widespread use of what we call Commercial Cloud Services, or C2S,” Sherman said.
While C2S was initially used for top secret data, agencies have been working over the past year to move data at the secret level into a C2S cloud, he said.
IC-GovCloud is the intelligence community’s big data analytic environment managed by the NSA. IC members ingest their data into the cloud computing program, where it is then searchable by other agencies. The ODNI cloud computing strategy calls IC-GovCloud the intelligence community’s “most powerful data analytic and high-performance analytic” platform.
“I will note that agencies such as the CIA and others have realized the power of IC GovCloud for a range of mission applications,” said Sherman.
The strategy is also in line with the CIA’s follow up to C2S: Commercial Cloud Enterprise. With C2E, the CIA plans to buy tens of billions of dollars worth of cloud service handling data at all security levels, available worldwide via satellite or other networks. The CIA held an industry day on C2E in March, where it announced that it plans to award its first contract by July 2021.
“This future procurement builds upon our successes with C2S and involves our consideration for a number of new approaches in several areas,” said Sherman.
A key objective of the strategy is to make intelligence available to war fighters or intelligence officers in remote or denied locations at the edge. That ties into a second priority, which is ensuring that cloud data, analytics and applications are available through multiple fabrics, including satellites.
“The IC faces global technology changes, now creating information at a scope and scale that challenge our ability to quickly deliver insightful and actionable intelligence. Our adversaries are moving out quickly in many areas such as cyber, artificial intelligence and machine learning, information and asymmetric warfare, not to mention other capabilities such as conventional arms and space. We must respond with equal urgency,” Sherman wrote in his introduction to the strategy.
“We must―and we will―get this right.”
Nathan Strout covers space, unmanned and intelligence systems for C4ISRNET.