May 09 2023

ETIC 2023: The DOD’s 8 Innovation Needs from Industry

Threats posed by foreign adversaries China and Russia have the Defense Intelligence Agency looking to modernize a host of systems for intelligence sharing.

The Pentagon has eight innovation needs from industry in response to multiple threats abroad, beginning with its Joint Worldwide Intelligence Communications (JWIC) System modernization, according to the deputy CIO of the Defense Intelligence Agency (DIA).

Speaking Monday at ACT-IAC’s Emerging Technology & Innovation Conference, E.P. Mathew said the Department of Defense has the most money it’s ever had to modernize the architecture of its secure intranet system for top secret and sensitive information.

Intelligence sharing internally and with U.S. allies has become even more important in light of recent Chinese antagonism, the Russian invasion of Ukraine and associated nuclear threat, North Korea’s 26 projectile launches so far in 2023, and Iran’s effort to become a nuclear power, Mathew said.

The JWIC modernization consists of three parts:

  • A tech refresh of equipment, bandwidth and redundancy
  • The creation of an inspection program to ensure its DOD, intelligence community and White House components are all up to date
  • Improving resiliency

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Modernizing the Defense Intelligence Information System

The second thing the DOD needs from industry is help modernizing the Defense Intelligence Information System, Mathew said.

Similar to JWIC’s modernization, a tech refresh is needed, but DoDIIS’s modernization also involves the DOD’s move to a zero-trust security architecture because foreign adversary China is attempting to dominate long-haul communications, cybersecurity standards-making and quantum computing.

“If you have these three things, what you really have is access to all of the data,” Mathew said.

DISCOVER: How agencies are addressing open-source software visibility.

The Desktop of the Future, Partnerships and a Software Factory

The DOD wants to take advantage of recent advances in cloud computing by working to redefine the desktop of the future, Mathew said.

Meanwhile, DIA is working to strengthen intelligence sharing partnerships with close allies including the U.K., New Zealand and Australia. That said, more than 30 countries are supporting Ukraine as it fends off Russia’s invasion, and the DOD is exploring nontraditional partnerships as well.

In the age of open-source software, everyone is an information collector, meaning there’s a role for industry to play in strengthening such partnerships, Mathew said.

Another challenge the Pentagon is working with industry to address is the difficulty vendors’ software developers have obtaining top secret and sensitive compartmented information clearances. That’s why the DOD plans to launch a software factory for unclassified contractors by the end of 2024, Mathew said.

“You can recruit students who don’t even have to know how to work with the intelligence community,” he said. “We can give them two-factor authentication; a CAC is very easy to get.”

Working from home will also be an option for them, Mathew added.

EXPLORE: How the DOD is implementing zero-trust architecture.

A New Human Resources System, MARS and Multicloud

A priority for DIA Director Lt. Gen. Scott Berrier has been investment in the modernization of the agency’s HR system, as it’s looking to adopt a new one.

“We’d love to hear from industry on what is the best of breed so that we can adopt that system in order to improve our hiring processes and our business processes,” Mathew said.

The DOD also is building out modules for its foundational system for sharing intelligence with its partners, the Machine-Assisted Analytic Rapid-Repository System (MARS). The department wants industry’s assistance moving MARS from a static system to a dynamic one.

An infrastructure module was added already this year, and cybersecurity and advanced mission intelligence modules are expected in 2024. The latter will grant users the ability to identify, tag, disseminate and discover intelligence in the system, Mathew said.

A final area where the Pentagon needs industry’s support is its transition from the Amazon Web Services cloud to a multicloud model with AWS, Microsoft, Google, Oracle and IBM. Specifically, the DOD needs interoperable infrastructure between clouds and partners to allow for data sharing.

The DOD has requested “significant” funding for these priorities in 2024, Mathew said.

To learn more about the 2023 ACT-IAC event, visit our conference page, and follow us on Twitter at @FedTechMagazine to see behind-the-scenes moments.

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