DIA upgrades info. sharing system

The Defense Intelligence Agency has upgraded its system for sharing classified information across Defense Department intelligence offices.

New capabilities of the DIA's All Source Intelligence Environment (ALIEN) Data Services Program include faster querying, more consistent data presentation and more nuance over who gets to see what, according to Ken Bartee, president and CEO and McDonald Bradley, which oversaw the upgrade.

DIA's goal for ALIEN was to provide a facility to share data across all DoD Intelligence Information Systems (DoDIIS) domains and offices on the Joint Worldwide Intelligence Communication System (JWICS).

ALIEN is "primarily a top-secret network used to support our combatant commanders ... and defense intelligence agencies and all their components," Bartee said. It offers "a standard interface to all the data that is out there, both at the commands [such] as the DIA and other places."

Landing 2, as the upgrade is known, will offer access for DoDIIS through a service-oriented architecture, the first-ever use of SOA in an environment with these security requirements, Bartee said. SOA allows the system to offer services in a more flexible manner.

Traditionally, intelligence systems tended to be stovepipe operations, explained John Sutton, senior vice president at McDonald Bradley. One repository may have data residing in a Sybase system, while another division would use an IBM system. "The data would be structured [in the two systems] completely differently," he said. Moreover, analysts would have to log into multiple systems to get at the different sets of data.

"Now you have one interface [that] gets you access to all these data stores," Sutton said.

One of the primary objectives of the upgrade was to improve the access control system so that individuals can get to the data they need more easily, but remain locked out of data that is not pertinent to their jobs.

"It's really moved to rules-based access," Sutton said. "It is not giving you access as an individual, but recognizes your role [and] what types of data you should have access to. It's based on more rules and polices than on who the individual user is," he said.

"The rules approach has been done on individual systems before but has never been done on a series of systems," he added.

The company also upgraded the indexing framework so that queries run fast, and "normalized" the data so that database entries containing identical information would actually appear identical to end-users. "You look at all the different data stores in all the different installations and they use significantly different terms. We're trying to get some degree of consistency from them," Bartee said.

About the Author

Joab Jackson is the senior technology editor for Government Computer News.

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