Defense Intelligence Agency CIO Jack Gumtow speaks at the DoDIIS Worldwide Conference 2019 in August. 

Nov 08 2019
Data Analytics

Q&A: DIA’s Jack Gumtow Emphasizes the Need to Share Data Within the IC

Intelligence agencies are working to share data with their partners to best conduct their critical national security missions.

Every year, members of the U.S. intelligence community and its foreign partners meet at the DoDIIS Worldwide Conference to share information and solidify connections. 

This year’s conference, held in Tampa, Fla., in August, focused on data sharing and analysis, and featured the rare public release of a strategic plan for cloud computing in the IC

The conference is organized by the Defense Intelligence Agency, which produces and analyzes intel for the military. DIA CIO Jack Gumtow spoke with FedTech about the trends most discussed at the conference.

FEDTECH: Talk about the new strategic plan and why it was made public. 

GUMTOW: Historically, the strategic plans were classified. They talked more about technology and horizons of technology — when we get to this horizon, we want to have these kinds of technologies. The difference with this strategy is we’re looking at four other goals: driving customer centricity, delivering data to the point of need, optimizing the CIO core and equipping the workforce. I’m not looking at technology; I’m looking at how we become a better enabler to our partners. Tech is a component of the strategic plan, but it can’t be the only thing.

MORE FROM FEDTECH: Find out how upgraded networks and environments can allow the military to better distribute information during missions.

FEDTECH: What is your biggest technological challenge at the moment? 

GUMTOW: Where we run into roadblocks are in two particular areas: One is policy that may restrict you from doing something, and the other one is culture. One case in point is our Five Eyes partnerships with Australia, Canada, New Zealand and the U.K. We go to war, we go into conflicts, and those are our partners. They have insights and accesses that we don’t have, and vice versa. And if we don’t share, then we have to expend resources — and in many cases it doesn’t matter how many resources you have, you cannot break into some target sites. 

It is a joint partnership, and I’m fully in on that. But there are some things that I can’t get to them because of either a policy issue or a cultural bias. It took me over two years to extend video teleconference at the desktop into the Five Eyes arena. It wasn’t technically difficult to do; it was a memorandum of agreement between two entities that limited what you could do, and that’s what I mean by these policy things — trying to get the right people to understand why you wrote that in 1989 and how that’s no longer relevant in 2018.

Defense Intelligence Agency CIO Jack Gumtow
Tech is a component of the strategic plan, but it can’t be the only thing."

Jack Gumtow Defense Intelligence Agency CIO

FEDTECH: Describe the decision to move from the agency’s original cloud strategy to the IC IT Enterprise Strategy. What’s been the impact of ICITE so far? 

GUMTOW: Where we started was not where we ended up. You can’t have a one-size-fits-all solution for 17 agencies. What we’ve gotten to is a reference architecture. You can employ or build a solution set as long as it addresses the reference architecture and its requirements, so we can share easily, data is accessible, compute is available across the board, and things aren’t done in stovepipes. All these things work together so that you can have accessibility, interoperability, information sharing, no matter where you go.

We all were locked into workloads in the cloud — if it was technically feasible, put it in the cloud. What happened a lot was lift-and-shift, let’s just put it in there. You can spin it up really quickly. But it drove our cost model way up to the point where, if we stayed on that same trajectory, it’s unaffordable. Sometimes cloud is not technically feasible because it doesn’t support a geographic location that is austere, or it doesn’t provide mission functionality, and then what’s the business cost analysis? You have to look at all of this. It’s not a simple equation.

VIDEO: See how AI is going to impact federal cybersecurity.

FEDTECH: How big of a role is AI playing in the agency at the moment? 

GUMTOW: The agency is dabbling in AI. I like to use the term “narrow AI,” meaning it’s useful for doing very narrow problem sets. There’s a lot more machine learning going on in narrow AI. What we believe about what artificial intelligence is, is probably a decade out. As I go around and talk to these vendors, there are a lot of questions: How do you get to that confidence model? What was the tradecraft? How did you do your data? What does your algorithm look like, and how did you test that? The human still needs to be part of that. I can’t go through the haystack because there’s just too much data in there. But if you give me just a pitchfork of that hay, then the human can say, OK, all the rest of this is just chaff or straw, and now I can use my analytic judgments and experience.

FEDTECH: What’s the biggest data security concern? 

GUMTOW: It’s how you protect data. Insider threats, outside threats, nation-states, near-peer competitors — it doesn’t matter. The barrier to entry, that bar is very low. You have an access point to web, the internet and a computer. I know people who are learning that kind of tradecraft from watching YouTube videos. 

And the threat factor is constantly shifting. How do you ensure the integrity of the data, the information that you’re getting? How do you ensure that it doesn’t go to the wrong people? How do we keep competitors from stealing information that we have intellectual property rights to, or basic research? 

It allows them to leapfrog forward after having been further behind, and then how do we adjust again? Not only from a defensive mechanism, but how do we, from an industrial military ­perspective, build weapons to defeat something that was taken from us in the first place?

David Richards/Defense Intelligence Agency

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