Intel community’s MUG tackling enterprise IT adoption

Listen to Jason's full interview with Al Tarasiuk

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The major IT transformation program to better connect all 17 intelligence community agencies is in the adoption phase.

Three years into the Intelligence Community IT Enterprise (ICITE) program, the challenge is less about technology and more about getting widespread buy-in from the analysts and collectors.

Al Tarasiuk, the intelligence community’s chief information officer, said phase one of the program includes about 16,000 users of the standard desktop with a plan to increase the number to 50,000 employees over the next year. He said full implementation of the initial capabilities of ICITE remain on track for 2018.

ICITE is a long-term program featuring a series of initiatives led by different parts of the intelligence community to standardize and implement shared commodity IT services. The Defense Intelligence Agency and the National Geospatial Intelligence Agency are leading the standard desktop implementation, which includes email and collaboration. The National Security Agency and the CIA are leading the common cloud computing platform effort. The National Reconnaissance Office is leading the network and engineering service provider to build standard network designs for local and wide area networks.

But no matter how great the tools and capabilities are, if no one uses them, then ICITE is insignificant.

That’s why Tarasiuk is turning to the MUG — the Mission Users Group — to lay the change management path. One of the first steps down that path is the role the MUG is playing in pushing forward a new concept from NSA, called the iCafe, which brings together developers and analysts to work on specific mission area needs.

“This is a group that is driving the mission adoption of these new services. The MUG is very interested in this iCafe and, in fact, they are trying to lead the way here for the entire community to try to put this in place for community use,” he said. “Developers from across the various agencies would be working with the mission folks and across the other agencies as well to actually drive new capabilities on top of this new cloud infrastructure. We couldn’t do this before because we didn’t have that kind of capacity and capability at the infrastructure layer to allow this.”

Senior leaders from the CIA and DIA lead the MUG, and mission owners from most of the primary agencies to help pull together “mission threads” to drive the adoption of ICITE.

The issue of ICITE adoption came under some criticism by former DIA Director David Shedd. According to some news reports, Shedd said ICITE faces cultural resistance.

Tarasiuk acknowledged that the change that ICITE is bringing would be hard for some, and that’s why the MUG and other governance efforts are trying to address that difficult move.

“ICITE really is not only the architectural change, but it’s also the business model change,” he said. “We are moving from a model where every agency does their own IT to a model where we go to a consumer and producer model. In some cases, there will be some IC elements, probably some of the smaller ones, that run IT today that won’t run IT tomorrow. They will buy the service from one of their sister agencies as a service provider. The MUG is actually one of the very important elements of this change effort. Having the mission folks at the senior levels from across the community driving the change and putting together the concepts of how we should do these integrate threads across the community, and bringing in more of an enterprise look at applications and priorities what data sets need to be ingested is really helping the mission elements to transition into this and become more comfortable with it.”

Along with the MUG, ICITE is one of the Director of National Intelligence James Clapper’s top priorities, so ODNI Principal Deputy Director Stephanie O’Sullivan meets with the largest five IC agencies weekly about the program’s progress and to address any challenges.

Additionally, Tarasiuk said for the first time this year the MUG and the CIO office collaborated on the annual users’ conference to ensure better integration among priorities and plans.

While the change management effort is ongoing, ICITE continues to add capabilities as a way to meet users’ needs.

Tarasiuk said the NSA recently launched a new applications marketplace, which exposes more than 400 software titles to the IC.

“Now they are exposed in a common way where they can be reutilized by others or, in fact over time, just like some of the commercial app stores, apps that aren’t used or used extensively will die on the vine,” he said. “We hope to use this as a way to rationalize all the various apps we have across the community.”

Related to the apps marketplace, Tarasiuk said the CIA awarded a contract to Amazon Web Services for a secure commercial cloud, which includes a vendor store for the intelligence community.

“What we are trying very hard not to do is overlay government bureaucracy over this, except, of course, for security,” he said. “We can leverage all those innovative capabilities that software vendors are putting in the marketplace. It’s exciting for us because it not only brings in the innovation, but it also brings in the business model where you pay by the drink, if you will, for how much you use it. That’s the new licensing model for that software. And just recently, the CIA CIO mentioned the new partnership with Cloudera and bringing in their data hub into the [cloud].”

Tarasiuk said the initial users of ICITE are finding benefits in more than costs savings, but the agility and flexibility that comes from using a cloud infrastructure.

He said ICITE’s benefits to the employees, the mission and to intelligence integration are clear as the IC has access to more innovative tools to operate large volumes of data sets on an enterprise cloud platform that provides elastic computing and data storage and near instance access to nearly unlimited computing power for developers for the first time.

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