Mar 29 2022

Intelligence Community Gets a New CIO Amid Shifts in Cloud, Tech Architecture

Adele Merritt, a government IT veteran, has been named the tech leader of the nation’s intelligence agencies.

The government’s intelligence community finally has a new permanent CIO.

Earlier this month, Director of National Intelligence Avril Haines announced Adele Merritt as the new CIO of the intelligence community, though she has been on the job since January, FedScoop reports.

Michael Waschull had been serving as acting CIO of the IC since January 2021 and is staying on as deputy CIO.

Merritt, a longtime government IT leader, takes the helm of technology leadership of the nation’s collection of intelligence agencies during a time of flux. The IC has been finalizing a strategy for its Intelligence Community Information Technology Enterprise initiative. The program, known as IC ITE, is now designed to focus on four key goals: a mission-driven enterprise, security, interoperability and supporting the deployment of emerging technology.

Additionally, the intelligence community is shifting its use of cloud computing to a multicloud model, through which it will seek to incentivize cooperation among various cloud service providers.

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A Full IT Plate for a New Intelligence Community CIO

In a statement, Haines noted that Merritt will lead the intelligence community’s efforts to transform IC ITE, ensure the security of the intelligence agencies’ IT systems and enhance IT cooperation within the IC.

Those are each tall orders, but Merritt does have deep IT experience. Most recently, Merritt served as program director at MISI, a nonprofit aimed at spurring cybersecurity innovation and collaboration through partnerships with industry, academia and government.

Merritt has more than 20 years of technical, analytic and policy expertise in cybersecurity and national security operations, according to Haines. She has deep intelligence community roots and started her career at the National Security Agency as an applied research mathematician.

Merritt served as the principal deputy CIO for cyber at the Energy Department and as director and acting senior director for intelligence programs on the National Security Council during the Obama administration.

MORE FROM FEDTECH: How is the CIA driving R&D innovation?

The shift to a multicloud approach will likely be one of the more complex assignments Merritt has to manage. The CIA was one of the government’s early pioneers in large-scale cloud deployment and has been working since 2013 with Amazon Web Services on its Commercial Cloud Services (C2S) contract.

The CIA, on behalf of itself and the other agencies in the intelligence community, awarded the cloud services portion of the Commercial Cloud Enterprise (C2E) contract to AWS, MicrosoftGoogleIBM and Oracle. C2E is the follow-up contract to C2S. The cloud companies will compete for task orders at various levels of classification, up to the top-secret level, for Software as a Service, Infrastructure as a Service and Platform as a Service offerings, as well as for other professional services.

In December, Waschull said the shift was the right thing to do for the IC, but also that the “challenges can’t be overstated. It’s a big jump for us to go in and choose the best-of-breed capacity and capability.”

The IC ITE evolution will also be a key priority for Merritt. The primary goal of the strategy is to enable a mission-driven enterprise. What that means in practice is deploying technology that can scale to agencies’ operational demands, finding efficiencies in business and acquisition practices across the intelligence community, and adopting more shared services. The strategy recognizes the need to shift away from agency-centric IT solutions and promote IC ITE services as the service of choice across the community.

Meanwhile, artificial intelligence, machine learning, data and computing technologies continue to be top priorities under ODNI’s fiscal year 2022 to FY 2026 science and technology investment landscape.

EXPLORE: How is the DIA updating the government’s secure intranet?

CIA/Twitter, Creative Commons

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