The quest for 'technical excellence' in intelligence gathering

Success requires getting through oversight, beating the data deluge

Deploying military technology into the theater can be a waiting game, and every stakeholder is looking for a way to get better IT into the hands of troops faster. According to one panel of experts, doing so means getting through “acquisition hell,” harnessing innovation and rethinking engineering.

“Technology delivery is a continuum,” said Dawn Meyerriecks, assistant director of national intelligence for acquisition and technology, Office of the Director of National Intelligence.

Meyerriecks, speaking at the GeoInt 2010 Symposium in New Orleans, also said it’s time to get back to basics with systems engineering in order to take on the new era of high-tech warfare – and to avoid the acquisition oversight hell that can be brought on by taking the wrong approach to acquiring IT.

“If you think about a problem correctly, you don’t have to deal with oversight, and everybody wins,” she said.

Today’s military IT strategy requires both innovation and a broader understanding of the issues at hand, said Dr. Lisa Porter, director of the Intelligence Advanced Research Projects Agency.

“We have to be committed to the pursuit of technological excellence,” Porter said. “We can’t keep relying on what we know how to do. As humans we are prone to stick by things we do well … this doesn’t lead to innovation.”

However, innovation can come from involving users as well as the traditional developers, and the use of open-source technology like user-generated apps needs to be incentivized, Meyerriecks said.

Another major challenge the panel noted was garnering actionable intelligence from massive amounts of data being generated by sensors deployed throughout the theater. Although a wealth of information has resulted from the widespread use of sensors, the data deluge has given rise to additional hurdles.

“We go out and collect more and more data, and expect analysts to magically bring it all together in a finite amount of time,” Porter said. “The mission of intelligence isn’t to collect data. The mission of intelligence is to provide deep insight and understanding into a wide variety of complex issues of national import, so our [leaders] can make good decisions and have high confidence in the consequences of those decisions.”

“Collecting data is a means to an end – it’s not the end,” Porter said.

"It's about processing, analysis and exploitation of the data," added Kevin Meiners, acting deputy under secretary for defense, portfolio, programs and resources.

About the Author

Amber Corrin is a former staff writer for FCW and Defense Systems.


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