New office to oversee data transfer across classification levels

The CIOs of the Defense Department and the Office of the Director of National Intelligence (ODNI) this afternoon took the wraps off a joint organization that will manage the technology used to shift information among various levels of classification.

The Unified Cross Domain Management Office started operations in Adelphi, Md., on March 1, according to a statement issued by ODNI office.

John Grimes, the Pentagon's CIO and assistant secretary of Defense for networks and information integration, signed the new organization's charter along with associate director of national intelligence and CIO Dale Meyerrose.

'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 Pentagon and the intelligence community have been working in recent months to reshape the technologies and policies that define and implement the process of shifting data across various classification levels.

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.'

Nowadays, the phrase 'cross-domain solutions' has become the more common term for the technologies. The Pentagon and the intelligence community seek to reduce the number of cross-domain solutions, standardize the types of information that flow across the systems and bring order to the rules used to govern the types of data attachments, such as radar tracks, that the various filters block or permit.

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.'

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

'This is the first of many combined endeavors that ODNI 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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