CIA 2.0: The Agency’s CIO and Change

Fact: CIO magazine is running a big story on the CIA’s Chief Information Officer Al Tarasiuk and his IT operation, and their online site is breaking it up into a four-part series running this week.  Below I analyze the series.

Analysis: By the halfway mark in the series, the magazine’s reporter Thomas Wailgum had only accomplished a fairly rote recounting of what CIA is, what its CIO does, and how both those factors have changed since the good ol’ spy days amid the challenges of a post-9/11 world.

Part Onedescribed “a business-IT alignment project like few others,” although it mainly served to introduce CIO magazine’s broad readership to the unfamiliar world of a walled-off intelligence agency, waxing on about the hyper-security at Langley.  Part Two similarly was background on the bureaucratic culture of the agency and its relegation of IT to backwater status – until 9/11 came along.

Today’s Part Three, though, attempts to examine “how CIO Al Tarasiuk got both high-level and low-level CIA employees to think about critical intelligence-sharing processes and showed that IT can be a valued partner.”  That was symbolized when new Director Mike Hayden realigned the CIO to be a direct report, unlike his predecessor. 

For many of the readers of CIO magazine outside government, that will be a familiar point of contention, as commercial enterprises have addressed the same problem of aligning the IT shop more directly with the business side.

Today’s installment also mentions Tarasiuk’s admirable emphasis on better project management, SOA, and the new enterprise data layer (which my group consulted on from DIA in 2006-07).   That data layer, to my judgment, doesn’t yet earn the adjective “enterprise,” since it includes only the most basic data sources so far, but it isn’t for lack of an overarching vision – it lags only because of the symbiotic deficits of money and enthusiasm to tackle the problem.  One true comment, buried near the end of today’s article, states matter-of-factly, “There are also thousands of databases across the intelligence community whose contents may or may not need to be connected.” 

By the way, a sidebar story on the much-lauded Intellipedia has a helpful link to an earlier story in sister publication ComputerWorld with the origins of Intellipedia and other Web 2.0 approaches in the IC, some of which I was involved with back in the day. 

Overall, Tarasiuk is getting well-deserved attention for his battles (truth in advertising – I know Al personally), and  I’m looking forward to tomorrow’s Part 4, promising to cover “CIA’s efforts to use new applications and Web 2.0 technologies.” 

Front-Lines of the Debate on “Government 2.0”

Speaking of 2.0, if you’d like a really up-to-date and incisive look at “Government 2.0,” I recommend reading two pieces in tandem – they essentially serve as a pointed debate with each other.   Mark Drapeau of National Defense University just published “Government 2.0: An Insider’s Perspective” on Mashable.com, and makes clear his understandably enthusiastic embrace of social media for government organizations.  He writes about the “many potential benefits for our military forces and associated civilians.”

Meanwhile, Ted Cuzzillo has published “Government 2.0: The Problems of Empowerment” in Enterprise Systems Journal, which holds that the buzz about enterprise 2.0 approaches in general is “just more theory and fanfare.”   Cuzzillo says that “Alarms go off in my head when I hear nothing but optimism,” and he recommends a healthy amount of skepticism, particularly about the likelihood of bureaucratic cultures easily adopting the social-sharing openness of the 2.0 wave, whether the tech tools are powerful or not.

I give the edge to Drapeau’s optimism, but note that he approvingly quotes John Hale of the DNI’s IC Enterprise Services office as saying “It’s not about technology. It’s about people and information sharing.”   So there’s something to be learned from both sides in this grand debate, which we will all participate in over the next few years, as technologists or as members of the polity, through efforts to reform and improve government.


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5 Responses

  1. Great post, Lewis. I’m happy to see the CIA being so forthcoming lately about their technolgy innovations. I understand they presented at the recent Enterprise 2.0 conference as well.

    I just posted about the security conundrum that Al talked about in today’s piece: the necessity for data sharing versus the potentially life-threatening error of a security breach. Now that’s a high stakes IT problem.

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  4. […] News » News News CIA 2.0: The Agency’s CIO and Change2008-08-07 06:20:24Much-Lauded origins of which I was involved … helpful link to an earlier story […]

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