DIA gets ahead of the game

'Everybody would like that AI (artificial intelligence) engine where I pump all the intel I know and it comes back and says 'Osama bin Laden is sitting at this caf' right now.' It's not there yet.'

'Michael Pflueger

Rick Steele

Defense Intelligence Agency uses predictive-analysis software, enhanced networks and state-of-the-art hardware to give analysts advanced word

Analysts at the Defense Intelligence Agency knew before the rest of the world that Mahmoud Abbas would be elected as the president of the Palestinian Authority after Yasser Arafat's death in November.

Did they use some advanced listening device to get inside information or capture images of secret documents using high-tech cameras to come to this conclusion? No. They used predictive-analysis software to determine the outcome of the election.

Imperfect world

'The ideal is to use the technology to prevent surprise and to mitigate its effects when it can't be prevented,' agency CIO Michael Pflueger said, adding that the agency is still testing the tool and that establishing a reliable predictive-analysis process remains 'a hard nut to crack.'

'Everybody would like that AI (artificial intelligence) engine where I pump all the intel I know and it comes back and says 'Osama bin Laden is sitting at this caf' right now,' ' Pflueger said. 'It's not there yet. Being predictive is one-third of our business and the toughest part of our business. I think tools will get better.'

Predictive analysis is one of several projects that DIA's Directorate for Information Management and CIO are working on to transform the way analysts use and share information. DIA is also modernizing its desktop computers, moving to common e-mail, collaboration and storage systems on the Department of Defense Intelligence Information System Trusted Workstation (DTW) and having a consortium of intelligence experts use a new, state-of-the-art laboratory.

'One of the challenges in intelligence is you don't mind competitive analysis, but what you don't want to have is where you're doing analysis and you know the quarterback has a broken leg and I don't,' Pflueger said. 'And that's what this information sharing thing and horizontal integration talk is all about, getting that common data across the whole analytical spectrum and making brain power the difference in arguing about intelligence estimates or decisions.'

The intelligence agency is conducting several projects to improve communications and information exchange. DIA is buying voice over IP technology to eventually replace its old phone system. The agency also has moved to Microsoft's Enterprise Project Manager to give supervisors the ability to track and manage ongoing projects. And agency engineers have developed the Web Intelligence Search Engine tool, which tags messages with metadata.

DIA is using thin clients to bolster security while enhancing efforts to share information. DTW will eliminate the need for multiple computer systems running various classification levels at each desktop, Pflueger said. The workstations use thin-client hardware from Sun Microsystems running the company's Trusted Solaris secure operating system, which keeps information segregated by security classification and sensitivity levels.

'Because the applications, data and operating system reside on the server, the DTW requires no administration from the desktop,' Pflueger said. 'In addition, a user's session is hosted and maintained on the server, which, with the use of a smart-card reader, enables a user to move from one DTW to another, around the world if necessary, by removing his smart card from one machine and inserting it into another.'

DIA analysts use the workstations to gain access to the Secret IP Router Network and the Joint Worldwide Intelligence Communications System, the global communications backbone used by all intelligence agencies for data and video.

JWICS is the secret, encrypted element of the Global Information Grid. Defense secretary Donald Rumsfeld conducts high-level videoconferences over JWICS when, for example, he wants to talk to Army Gen. John Abizaid, commander of the Central Command. DIA runs about 100 videoconferences a day over JWICS.

'It's an exciting time to be in the IT world,' Pflueger said. 'The thrust of everything you've seen from the president on down is about information sharing.'

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