DOD, spy agencies expand sharing plans

Project aims to cross classification levels

CROSS DOMAIN: Dale Meyerrose said the CDS project would involve consolidating hundreds of the systems for shifting data across levels of classification into about 20 or so basic CDSes.

The Defense Department and the intelligence community have worked during the past year through a newly unveiled organization to hone technologies for sharing classified data among various levels of secrecy, according to officials and public documents.

The Information Sharing Environment, an interagency program under the aegis of the Office of Director of National Intelligence, confirmed the existence of the organization in a November 2006 report.

The new office, since renamed the Unified Cross Domain Management Office, was created to 'ensure that cross-domain solutions are available to meet IC and DOD needs at acceptable levels of cost, schedule and risk,' the report said.

'While this is a promising initiative, it must be expanded beyond DOD and IC to fully encompass the needs of all [Intelligence Sharing Environment] participants,' according to the report.

The ISE, which Congress established as part of the Intelligence Reform and Terrorism Prevention Act of 2004, has developed an architecture for interagency
information transfer to help promote a 'responsibility to share.'

ISE participants include dozens of federal, state, local and tribal intelligence and law enforcement agencies, as well as the dozens of information fusion centers they have established.

Intelligence officials, including associate director for national intelligence and CIO Dale Meyerrose, have described a general effort to consolidate dozens of cross-domain solutions informally over the past year.

Meyerrose said the CDS project would involve consolidating hundreds of the systems for shifting data across levels of classification into about 20 basic CDSes, making exceptions where necessary.

The November report from the information-sharing office called for improved data transfer links, noting that 'CDSes are available today, but existing approaches have failed to keep pace with growing requirements and changing technology.'

The report added, 'Based largely on searches of textual information, these [existing information sharing] solutions do not typically support a robust exchange of graphic or multimedia information, and almost always require human review as part of the high-low transfer process.'

The CIOs of the Pentagon and the DNI Office announced their fledgling organization for reforming CDS technology in a press statement issued on March 8.

The press release stated that the organization, based in Adelphi, Md., operates under a charter signed by Meyerrose and John Grimes, the Pentagon's CIO and assistant secretary of Defense for networks and information integration, on March 1, 2007.

Intelligence community officials confirmed that the DNI Office had approved the release of the November 2006 report stating that the office had launched in March 2006.

'This charter allows the DOD and [intelligence] communities to more effectively share information between security domains'that is, to move information between networks at different clearance [classification] levels throughout the federal government,' said Bob Lentz, DOD information assurance policy director.

The technology is important partly because it governs the ability of federal intelligence agencies to inform state, local and tribal first responders about pending terrorist threats.

The technologies used to act as filters or gateways to control the flow of information across classification levels have at times been referred to as 'high-assurance guards.'

One goal of pruning the garden of CDS units is to bring order to the rules used to govern the types of data attachments, such as radar tracks, that the various filters block or permit, according to intelligence officials.

Intelligence practitioners say the cross-domain processes have taken various forms. Some involve devices using hardware and software. Other procedures rely on old-fashioned sneakernet transfer between networks separated by classic 'air gap' technology, or total lack of electronic links.

'The DOD and the IC [intelligence community] have been aggressively collaborating on initiatives to improve sharing information across the networks,' Grimes said in the press statement.

'This requires a close working relationship between the DOD and the IC staffs for interoperability solutions, and common certification and accreditation criteria for products and systems,' Grimes added.

The Pentagon and the intelligence community likely will soon conclude their
certification and accreditation rules for federal systems, a process that promises to reshape key rules for handling classified data.

The certification and accreditation reforms likely will include about a dozen changes to the existing process, including a method of harmonizing the 'protection level' rules for handling various types of classified data.

'We believe that the only way we can get early solutions for sharing time-sensitive information across various domains is through a unified approach and unified management organization,' Grimes said in a statement.

'This is the first of many combined endeavors that [DNI Office] and [the Office of the Secretary of Defense] are going to undertake to bring national intelligence and defense activities into closer alignment as we move to a more integrated, collaborative enterprise,' Meyerrose added.

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