Intelligence agencies, Army team up to tackle interoperability standards

Army, DIA, and NGA want to leverage each other’s technologies, connect strategic intelligence to tactical operations.

With government agencies asked to do more with less, many are realizing the benefits of collaboration.

Officials from the Defense Intelligence Agency, the National Geospatial-Intelligence Agency and the Army highlighted their partnerships after the unveiling of DIA’s new Open Innovation Gateway this week at DIA’s Innovation Symposium 2014.   

“Partnership is essential right now. In a time of budget austerity we simply cannot afford to keep going it alone, building our own things,” said Dan Doney, DIA chief innovation officer. “It turns out that working together requires you to work together at the core and early on. You can’t just take a tool developed on the outside by DIA and then throw it over to NGA and say ‘good luck with that.’ It requires us to work together from inception.”

DIA and NGA are working together in several areas. For instance, DIA’s NeedipeDIA, which is designed to concisely and clearly share the agency’s needs with innovators, also shares joint DIA/NGA activity-based intelligence needs. Meanwhile, NGA’s own capability consolidation and technology exchange program, the GEOINT Solutions Marketplace, will work closely with DIA’s Gateway to improve vendor registries. The two agencies are also working to establish and enforce interoperability standards for the technologies that they are discovering and developing.

“There is something really important about working in a collaborative fashion and that is to do standards driven design—that is, start with the standards to create the opportunity for interoperability,” Doney said.

Partnerships are not limited to the intelligence community, however—the Army also will be collaborating through DIA’s new Gateway.

Understanding the need to integrate its sensors, the Army has been working on its Integrated Sensor Architecture (ISA) and the Sensor Computing Environment (Sensor CE) to provide a common interoperability layer for human-controlled or unmanned sensors. These two solutions were originally designed to move sensors away from a point-to-point architecture into a more modular system. Because sensor systems are used across nearly all domains, the ISA and Sensor CE will be used within the Gateway to connect live and virtual sensors.

In doing so, the Army and DIA are hoping to more closely connect strategic intelligence with tactical operations do deal with what Army officials deem “common challenges.” By bringing the two together, officials hope to create an environment that will foster the same interoperability standards across both realms.

“We have not had a model that allows an ecosystem to emerge and people to bring standards together,” Doney said. “So as long as the tactical world sits all the way over there and the strategic world sits all the way over here, we have two separate ecosystems and there are no drivers to pull the standards together.”