Rebooting the IC Information Environment

01.26.17 | 2 min read | Text by Steven Aftergood

Over the past several years, former Director of National Intelligence James R. Clapper led an ongoing transformation of information policy in the U.S. intelligence community that stresses information sharing among intelligence agencies based on a common information technology infrastructure.

On his way out the door last week, DNI Clapper signed Intelligence Community Directive 121 on Managing the Intelligence Community Information Environment, dated January 19, 2017.

The goal is for each IC member agency “to make information readily discoverable by and appropriately retrievable to the [entire] IC.”

Although the policy makes allowance for unique individual agency requirements, and acknowledges legal and policy restrictions on sharing of privacy information, a common IC-wide information architecture is otherwise supposed to become the new default for each intelligence community agency.

“IC elements shall first use an IC enterprise approach, which accounts for all IC equities and enhances intelligence integration, for managing the IC IE [Information Environment] before using an IC element-centric solution,” the new directive says.

Further, “IC elements shall […] migrate IC IT capabilities to IC IT SoCCs [Services of Common Concern] as quickly and efficiently as possible.”

Increased sharing of information naturally entails increased vulnerability to compromise of the shared information.

To help mitigate the increased risk, “all personnel accessing the IC IE [must] have unique, identifiable identities, which can be authenticated and have current and accurate attributes for accessing information in accordance with IC policies, guidance, and specifications for identity and access management,” the directive says.

The new IT Enterprise approach has received congressional support and seems likely to continue for the foreseeable future.

But in the current period of turbulence everything is uncertain, including the future of the Office of the Director of National Intelligence itself.

In its report on the FY2017 Intelligence Authorization Act last week, the Senate Intelligence Committee mandated a new review of the roles and missions of the ODNI.

“It has been more than ten years since the Congress established the position of the DNI in the Intelligence Reform and Terrorism Prevention Act of 2004, building on its predecessor, the Director of Central Intelligence. Given this experience and the evolving security environment, the Committee believes it appropriate to review the DNI’s roles, missions and functions and adapt its authorities, organization and resources as needed,” the new Committee report said.