Fact: As reported in InformationWeek recently, “In December, the DNI will launch A-Space, a portal that will eventually include everything from wikis, blogs, and social networking; built using SOA.”
Analysis: Our team at DIA got assigned by the Director of National Intelligence (DNI) to design and build A-Space, a brand new social-networking environment for the full intelligence community – “the MySpace for spies.” We’re talking a very high-walled Walled Garden.
I had to devote (not to say divert) some of our most talented people leading the all-important Alien program to this new effort, which really only began in September. Phase I of A-Space must go live by the end of the year; Phase II (with more advanced Web 2.0 capabilities) just a few months later.
We expect no delay to Alien – the larger and in many ways more fundamental effort – but the experience has been akin to having the NASA Apollo XI team also asked to “figure a way to stop by Mars first.”
There’s been a lot of hyperbole printed and blogged about A-Space, including by those who erroneously assume it will exist on the Internet and thus be a security sieve.
Others persist (since corrected after reading this!) in calling it a “CIA” project, which of course is an amusing but understandable error… the technical team is at DIA but is very community-minded, working with analysts from multiple agencies to get the details right. Even a few oddball reports (including WIRED) have had the agency designations right.
Despite the headaches and hyper-aggressive timeline, who would turn down the opportunity to develop such a fundamentally significant environment, and with it attack the information-silo problems that contributed to the 9/11 intelligence failures?
We’re getting close – today was a great day, with live demo’s of A-Space and Alien as they stand now, for several DNI personnel and folks from other agencies. Our folks have been working nearly round-the-clock ever since the A-Space assignment; today they got excited when the possibility surfaced that the President might grant all federal employees an extra half-day-off around Christmas, as that would extend their deliverable deadline past midnight on 12/31, into the new year 🙂
Most of all, I love being called “young,” if only by association, as when Federal Computer Week reported that the DNI was “urged to take action by a new generation of employees [who are] moving to Web 2.0 social-networking tools.” FCW’s title works for me: “Young Feds Bring Intell Changes.”