The National Security Agency (NSA) is poised to deliver an initial
cloud computing capability for the entire intelligence community (IC)
that will significantly enhance cybersecurity and mission performance,
and unleash the power of innovation for intelligence agencies, Lonny
Anderson, NSA chief information officer, says.
Early last year, the director of national intelligence tapped the NSA
to lead the effort to build a scalable, accessible and secure cloud
computing environment available on demand for the entire intelligence
community. “NSA is at the forefront of the IC’s efforts to implement big
data analytics and an underlying cloud computing infrastructure. NSA is
on schedule to deliver an initial capability and is working closely
with the director of national intelligence and IC partners to realize
this objective,” Anderson reports.
The NSA currently uses big data techniques and cloud computing
infrastructure to tackle some of its most difficult analytic challenges.
“Simply put, these problems would be impossible to solve using
conventional methodologies,” Anderson asserts. “For national security,
cloud computing represents a paradigm shift in how we construct, execute
and disseminate community analytics. Beyond enhancements in data
sharing and access, the IC should be able to significantly improve the
quality of information it provides to decision makers, all at the same
or reduced cost.”
Furthermore, big data and cybersecurity “go hand-in-glove,” he says.
“Cloud computing and big data expand our ability to implement
cross-domain mission solutions and offer the ability to enforce security
protocols at incredible levels of granularity, all with the dramatic
improvements in auditability,” Anderson explains. “On the other hand,
the initiatives force us to rethink our security framework and
The agency already has made progress. Besides having a plan and
clear timeline for delivering the first increments, NSA personnel have
worked with officials in the other intelligence organizations to craft
solutions to some of the community’s biggest problems. “Most
importantly, more than any other IC-wide initiative I’ve been part of,
senior leadership from the director of national intelligence and fellow
IC agencies have the will to make this succeed. Key stakeholders have
bought in. For example, NSA recently established a new IC-wide service
organization to build and implement the service management elements of
the IC GovCloud,” Anderson says.
But a lot still needs to be done. To achieve their goals, officials
will need to closely scrub legal and policy frameworks and grapple with
continued shifts in cultural attitudes and behaviors. In addition, they
must determine how to approach enterprise licensing agreements and
standards harmonization across the community, Anderson notes.
“This is a big, challenging task. The big shift will come when we go
live with the first increment of capability. Again, this is a paradigm
shift in how the IC uses computing to do its mission,” Anderson adds.
To make it happen, the NSA will need to partner with less
experienced agencies to demonstrate the power of the new technology and
teach personnel in other agencies how to employ it on their own. “If
we’re successful in doing this, we should see not only measurable
improvements in mission performance, but also significant, unanticipated
innovation across the IC,” Anderson concludes.
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