For DIA, interoperability begins with the data

Service-oriented architecture key to collaboration among intel agencies

We are not looking for any technology silver bullets. A lot of it is IT best practices and data tagging.'

' Mark Greer, DIA deputy CIO

Rick Steele

The intelligence community is moving beyond collaborative applications to achieve interoperability across its agencies with the help of a service-oriented architecture.

Defense Intelligence Agency officials say true interoperability must occur at the data level, instead of the system level. So the agency is building an SOA with a set of common data standards that will use Web services, Extensible Markup Language, metadata tagging and other tools that should ease collaboration.

'We are not looking for any technology silver bullets,' said Mark Greer, the agency's deputy CIO. 'A lot of it is IT best practices and data tagging that will give us that information movement back and forth.'

'We're going get to the point at the SCI [sensitive compartmented information] level and secret level where it's not going to matter what kind of IM [instant message] tool or collaboration tool you're using. Interoperability will be a given,' added Lewis Shepherd, DIA's chief of requirements and research. 'That's easily achievable over the next year.'

Shepherd sat on a panel at the recent FOSE trade show. Greer moderated a discussion that focused on how intelligence agencies can move to better share data and analyses.

Greer said that, three to five years ago, a similar panel discussion on interoperability might have delved into specific applications.

'The discussion would have been on Groove and white-boarding and not on business systems operations,' Greer said.

Today, an 'explosion in blogging in the intelligence community' is one way to promote an exchange of ideas, Shepherd added. RSS (Really Simple Syndication) feeds, RSS readers and standards-based instant messaging are currently available to DIA users.

'We've begun to use those internally at DIA and across the agencies. It's exciting to see the profusion of them,' Shepherd said. 'We have no idea what blogging is going to do in two to three years for intelligence analysis, but for a collaborative environment, it will probably dwarf what we could do with a designed system.'

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