Increasing Jointness and Reducing Duplication in DoD Intelligence

Today I’m publishing an important guest-essay, with a brief introduction.  Last month the Wall Street Journal published a 12-part online series about college graduates and their paths to success, featuring surveys and input from job recruiters. One thing caught my eye, at least when blogged by an acquaintance, Prof. Kristan Wheaton of the Mercyhurst College Institute Of Intelligence Studies. The WSJ’s study included a look at recent graduates’ job satisfaction in their new careers, and as Prof. Wheaton strikingly put it in his own blogpost:

Intelligence Analysts are Insanely Happy.” 

I’m pretty sure that’s not really true by and large; Prof. Wheaton seems slightly dubious as well. Many readers of this blog are intelligence analysts themselves, so I’d love to hear from you (in comments or email) about your degree of giddyness….

We all know that the intelligence-analysis field as currently practiced in U.S. agencies bears many burdens weighing heavily on job satisfaction, and unfortunately weighing on successful performance.  Our youngest and our most experienced intelligence analysts have been battling those burdens. 

One analyst has now put constructive thoughts on paper, most immediately in response to a call by Defense Secretary Bob Gates asking DoD military and civilian employees to submit their ideas to save money, avoid cost, reduce cycle time and increase the agility of the department (see more about the challenge here).  

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A-Space Past and Future

This week marks the second anniversary of the first live internal demo of the intelligence community’s A-Space project, groundbreaking for the IC in its goal of collaborative use of social media across agency lines. Somewhere in Maryland, a remarkable government employee and friend named Mike Wertheimer should pause and quietly celebrate the fruition of his early evangelism for it.

I was still a government employee then, but wrote about the effort at the time here on Shepherd’s Pi (“A-Space: Top-secret social networking“). It makes me chuckle to remember back to those days when it was still mostly unheard-of for IC employees to blog openly on the public web about current technology projects. Now you can’t shut ‘em up! :)

It made sense, I thought, to set down a few notes at the time for several reasons: Continue reading

Invisibility, Mind-Control, Great Coffee, and a New OS

Lots of interest and blogoshere commentary beginning about “The Mojave Experiment.”

The reaction is reminiscent of one of those Obama or McCain provocative ads posted online, generating far more attention and buzz than the attention they get on the natural by being broadcast.

Sure, it’s a sales pitch, and pretty narrowly geeky at that (thanks GoogleFight!).

But at least it’s an innovative one – as the Wall Street Journal puts it today, “Give Microsoft people credit: They did it with humor, and they weren’t afraid to air the negative stuff.”

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Tempted to “Skimp” on IT Security?

FACT: According to a study presented at last week’s annual RSA Conference on cyber security, by Palo Alto Networks CTO Nir Zuk, “Users are routinely, and fairly easily, circumventing corporate security controls. And that is because traditional firewall technology was not meant to grapple with the diversity of Internet applications of recent years.”

ANALYSIS: Security has been an even hotter topic than usual for the past month, what with new national-level attention to cyber security and, for Microsoft, a culmination of sorts of various strands of effort into our new “End to End Trust” initiative.  My boss, Jim Simon, attended the RSA Conference in San Francisco, with his boss, Craig Mundie, Microsoft’s Chief Research and Strategy Officer.  Craig laid out Microsoft’s “End-to-End Trust” vision, designed to provide users more control over online and enterprise systems.  His keynote was widely covered (even by offbeat security blogs, like RiskBloggers.com) so I don’t need to rehash it.

Nir Zuk’s presentation was interesting – and not just because he’s one of the true pioneers of firewall technology.  He really understands secure enterprise environments, something I’m talking about increasingly with government organizations, who are learning the hard way the need to protect their data, apps, and computing platforms.  

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Puncturing Circles of Bureaucracy

In my airplane reading this week was the February issue of Defense Systems magazine, with an interesting article on the Department of Defense’s “Rapid Reaction Technology Office,”  or RRTO.

(Also in my reading stack was a hilariously disturbing article in WIRED about the merry pranksters of Second Life, but it has nothing to do with my topic right now.)

RRTO is facing great challenges inherent in trying to innovate DoD practices, and I’d argue some of the problem is evident right there in its title: there’s rarely anything truly “rapid” about a reactive approach to technology innovation.

After I joined DIA in 2004, leading that agency’s efforts at “innovation” in information technologies, I began to structure my thoughts about the impediments to change and improvement.

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How Not to Predict Election Results

Fact: The final Reuters/Zogby poll in California, published the day before the Super Tuesday primary in that state, had Mitt Romney up by seven points on the Republican side, and Barack Obama ahead by 13 points in the Democratic primary. In fact John McCain won by eight points, and Hillary Clinton by 10 points.  According to an attempted explanation by John Zogby, “Some of you may have noticed our pre-election polling differed from the actual results.” 

Analysis: From my old political-involvement days, I have lots of friends who have been working on various presidential campaigns this year; several are still active – some on McCain’s staff, and one is with Hillary Clinton (having led her to an upset victory in California, and now her honcho in Texas).  Bipartisanship in practice!  But I can’t trust what they tell me, and each side tells me a lot about what’s purportedly “going to happen.”

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Wall Street Journal – Peering into the Future, Dimly

The Wall Street Journal ran a collection of think-pieces today on “Thinking About Tomorrow: How will technology change the way we shop, learn and entertain ourselves? How will it change the way we get news, protect our privacy, connect with friends? We look ahead 10 years, and imagine a whole different world.”

My take on the story, though, was “ho-hum.” Looking ahead 10 years should get the mind a little further than easily predictable stuff such as this: “Mobile devices will get smaller and more powerful, and will connect to the Internet through high-speed links. The result: People will be able to do anything on a hand-held that they can now do on a desktop computer. In fact, they’ll be able to do even more, as mobile gadgets increasingly come equipped with global-positioning-system gear that can track your every move. As you drive around, for instance, you might get reviews of nearby restaurants automatically delivered to a screen in your car — maybe even projected onto the windshield.”

Aside from the safety aspect of that type of projection, this scenario surely is only a year or so away – not 10.

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