Service-oriented architecture is DIA's framework for interoperability

The intelligence community is moving beyond collaborative applications to achieve interoperability across its agencies and toward building a service-oriented architecture.

The Defense Intelligence Agency feels that true interoperability must occur at the data level, instead of the system level. To this end, the agency is building a SOA with a set of common data standards that will use Web services, XML, meta-data tagging and other tools that should ease collaboration.

"We are not looking for any technology silver bullets," said Mark Greer, the agency's deputy CIO. "A lot of it is IT best practices and data tagging that will give us that information movement back and forth."

"We're going get to the point at the SCI [sensitive compartmented information] level and secret level where it's not going to matter what kind of IM [instant message] tool or collaboration tool you're using. Interoperability will be a given," added Lewis Shepherd, DIA's chief of requirements and research. "That's easily achievable over the next year."

Shepherd sat on a panel at the recent FOSE trade show sponsored by PostNewsweek Tech Media, the parent company of Washington Technology. Greer moderated a discussion that focused on how intelligence agencies can move to better share data and analyses.

According to Greer, three to five years ago a similar panel discussion on interoperability might have delved into specific apps. "The discussion would have been on Groove and white-boarding and not on business systems operations," Greer said.

Today, an "explosion in blogging in the intelligence community" is one way to promote an exchange of ideas, Shepherd added. RSS (really simple syndication) feeds, RSS readers and standards-based instant messaging are currently available to DIA users.

"We've begun to use those internally at DIA and across the agencies. It's exciting to see the profusion of them," Shepherd said. "We have no idea what blogging is going to do in two to three years for intelligence analysis, but for a collaborative environment, it will probably dwarf what we could do with a designed system."

Also sitting on the panel was Robert Fecteau, CIO of BAE Systens Information Technology, and Sterling Wright, chief technology officer of the National Ground Intelligence Center.

NGIC, located in central Virginia, is a major subordinate command of the Army Intelligence and Security Command. It provides scientific and technical intelligence and general military intelligence on foreign ground forces, according to Defense officials.

Dawn S. Onley is a staff writer for Washington Technology's sister publication, Government Computer News.

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