Intelink created a comprehensive electronic system for disseminating intelligence information to policy makers and warfighters, but much work remains to make the system better.

Volume 11, Number 66

The Rapid Expansion of Intelink

Prepared remarks by Emmett Paige Jr., assistant secretary of defense for command, control, communications and intelligence, to the Intelink Mission Support Conference, San Diego, June 11, 1996.

In 1994, the DCI [director of central intelligence] and the DEPSECDEF [deputy secretary of defense] declared Intelink the strategic direction for community product dissemination systems. Now, just two years later, Intelink has created an environment offering innovative ways of providing timely and comprehensive intelligence support to policy makers and warfighters, wherever it is needed. I continue to be amazed by the rapidly expanding capability of Intelink and congratulate all those who contributed in making it a reality so quickly.

With all this said, it is critical to now focus on what must be done to maintain our rapid progress. Efforts to provide more intelligence products for the warfighter at the collateral level must be a top priority. In addition to greater emphasis on the sanitization or collateralization of intelligence, multilevel security solutions for moving data rapidly and efficiently between security levels must continue to be given high priority.

Intelink-S, the secret-level variant of Intelink, has begun to expand rapidly in scope and reach. As the intelligence support medium for GCCS [Global Command and Control System] and law enforcement activities, Intelink-S is expected to become the principal growth area for intelligence products and services. Its customer base will be extraordinarily diverse, eventually encompassing all areas of U.S. government operations that can benefit from integrated intelligence support and collaboration. Accommodating this diversity without degrading support to key customers and operations is essential.

In this regard, breaking the mold of traditional intelligence business methods is fundamental to adequately meeting the needs of our customers. Making the necessary advances in Intelink capabilities will depend largely on progress in two areas: security and information management.

In the area of security, we should be emphasizing smart risk management strategies. Too many road blocks still stand in the way of mission-effective information flow. We need to enable use of new technology for moving and displaying data that industry is producing, almost on a daily basis.

Excellent progress is being made in the Multilevel Information Systems Security Initiative with Fortezza card solutions. We are beginning deployment of the Defense Message System that will ultimately bring a single, effective security regime to the broad spectrum of DoD communications, including intelligence.

I know that Intelink is working to be DMS-compliant, and I want to emphasize that I consider that extremely important. Intelink, as the secure analog to the Internet, will serve as the bridge connecting the information systems of the many organizations and functions that participate in the intelligence process as collectors, producers and users. It is therefore critical that the development and management of Intelink reflect our most advanced thinking and the most innovative capabilities offered to us by the commercial sector.

An equal challenge, I believe, lies in defining and implementing a sound game plan for information management and information sharing. In the much-changed intelligence dissemination environment afforded by Intelink, the amount of information available to the user is growing at staggering rates. New and improved technology allows us to retrieve, aggregate and display it in many useful and attractive ways. The danger lies in our being overly captivated by what we can do while losing sight of what we need to do. The richness of Intelink will become a liability if the user cannot find needed information, separate the wheat from the chaff and judge accurately the quality and reliability of intelligence provided. We must devote as much attention to effectively managing Intelink as a dissemination and collaboration medium as we do to selecting the data we post on it.

A critical aspect of this management is integration into the normal production process of the procedures and mechanisms required for direct authoring and publication of intelligence documents in the appropriate Intelink medium. Not only will this speed up the process, but it will also eliminate the additional costs currently being incurred by organizations which post their products on Intelink as an added step after completing their traditional production and dissemination sequence.

Transition to an Intelink-based production process should be extended to include the creation and maintenance of electronic archives that are accessible via Intelink to research analysts throughout the community. Through standardized document tagging and data base access protocols, a user should be able to access all relevant data bases, regardless of agency sponsorship, with a single query. I urge strong support of the Electronic Publishing Board's efforts toward this end, as well as its program to eliminate hard copy publication of intelligence products in favor of electronic dissemination via media such as Intelink. ...

One of the great things that adoption of Internet and World Wide Web technology has done for us is to largely eliminate the massive ADP [automated data processing] development programs that seemed to dominate our attention, not to mention our budgets. By letting industry do the technical part for us, we can devote our time and effort to determining how best to use the new technology to serve our customers. We need to move smartly to take advantage of this benefit.

Intelink has changed the traditionally linear process of intelligence support into one that is significantly more complex. When the primary dissemination vehicle is a message report, each intelligence production organization speaks directly and separately to its customers, and the latter integrate and synthesize the products according to their perceived needs.

When producers publish their products on Intelink, they are immediately and simultaneously available to a much larger user population, and, more importantly, they are interconnected and integrated with other reporting by the hyperlink medium in ways that the individual publishers may not be aware of in advance, and do not necessarily control. Add to this the power of multimedia presentation and you have, in effect, a new intelligence super product that transcends the sum of its individual product components.

With the continuing growth of Intelink, in all dimensions, we are going to have to deal with the implications of potential data overload, of seemingly contradictory information published independently by different providers, of the need to establish efficient divisions of labor among providers in order to avoid unproductive redundancy and of the requirement for uniform performance standards, for example, in timeliness of updates, that the Intelink customer can have confidence in.

To take advantage of the opportunities that Intelink offers for better, more cost effective intelligence production and dissemination, we must accept and master the serious challenges that come with them. Essentially, this means successfully reconciling the medium and the mission. Or, as I said earlier, distinguishing what we need to do from what we can do.

Although virtually identical technically, Intelink is not the World Wide Web. Providers to the latter are not required to pursue a common mission or to have the discipline needed to do so. We, on the other hand, are charged both collectively and individually with providing our customers the best possible intelligence support. We cannot do that if Intelink becomes, like the Web, simply an exponentially expanding collection of whatever data contributors feel compelled to post and to maintain.

Having said this, however, I need to point out that the really tricky part of our challenge is to prevent the pursuit of effective Intelink information management and discipline from killing a goose that lays golden eggs.

The advent of the Internet and Web is one of the landmark events of this century. They are expanding and enriching our personal and professional lives by enabling us to know more and to interact usefully with people and institutions we may never have heard of before, much less been able to contact readily.

This capability has been brought into the realm of intelligence production and dissemination by Intelink, and we need to ensure that the compromises that we may have to make in the interest of effective mission performance do not so constrain users' ability to access information and interact with others that we end up back where we started.

Optimum solutions in this area are not always readily apparent and are already the subject of substantial, hopefully, constructive controversy within the Intelink user-provider community. The focal point is security, specifically the extent to which the need-to-know principle should be implemented within the overall Intelink information environment.

The Internet-Web paradigm considers that principle a contradiction. What is the purpose in creating a medium giving broad access to a virtually unlimited spectrum of information if we are going to turn around and chop that medium up into a host of restricted compartments? Given the security-oriented nature of the intelligence business, isn't it likely that an ability to compartment Intelink will result ultimately in loss of the primary data dissemination and access benefits we initially realized?

Indeed, one of the characteristics of Intelink most favorably commented upon is that it has opened to all users a range and variety of information and services never before available to them, which have significantly enhanced their mission performance.

Yet there are very important intelligence support functions that cannot be assisted by Intelink because sufficient need-to-know protection for sensitive sources and methods or operations cannot currently be provided. This is a primary area in which the mission of Intelink must take precedence over philosophical principle. I know that the capabilities and procedures needed to provide effective Intelink access control are under development. ... We must also demonstrate the ability to utilize them effectively in an operating environment in which the pros and cons are neither categorical nor unchanging.

Powerful concepts demand a guiding vision of equal power. Intelink will realize its promise if we do not lose sight of what it is supposed to do for us and learn to use it to our best advantage. ...

Parenthetical entries are speaker/author notes; bracketed entries are editorial notes.