ODNI, NGA Officials Tout Modernization During the Current Pandemic

At an industry-sponsored webinar on Wednesday, August 12, officials from the Office of the Director of National Intelligence (ODNI) and the National Geospatial Agency (NGA) discussed how during the current COVID-19 pandemic their agencies: “innovate and deploy new technologies and methodologies to drive digital transformation for efficiency and cost savings.

La’Naia Jones, acting Chief Information Officer for the Intelligence Community (ICCIO) in the ODNI, emphasized that the application of ODNI’s 2019 Cyber Implementation Plan, and lessons learned over seven years since the ODNI decided to invest in Cloud technologies, have reduced costs through the integration of IT services and process automation across the IC to “do more with less.” She acknowledged that manual processes put a drag on workflows, noting that this became especially obvious as the IC transitioned to performing as much telework as possible under the pandemic lockdown. Jones explained that the ODNI is uniquely positioned to leverage modernization through a common infrastructure and federated approach across the 17 IC agencies.  This allows for flexibility in adapting specific technologies to the needs of each IC agency for automation and processing unstructured data.

NGA’s Associate CIO Mark Chatelain explained that flexibility in implementing technological solutions for specific tasks have allowed the NGA to go from having only a few employees working remotely before March 15, to now having almost its entire workforce work remotely.  Less than 10 percent of NGA employees work on site. He emphasized the role of NGA’s agile business processes in rapidly adapting to support the NGA in deploying a remote topographic platform at the unclassified level within the first week of the pandemic lockdown.

As highlighted in these presentations, the IC’s rapid response to the COVID-19 pandemic was aided by their modernization plans.  They deployed advanced technologies for remote access and collaboration, shifting away from manual processes that were either inefficient or impossible to perform remotely.  IC adoption of automation, and the ability to efficiently and effectively process unstructured data, illustrate how the IC is cutting costs through digital transformation— a strategy that the Public Interest Declassification Board has long recommended for improving classification and declassification across the Federal Government. Modernization during the current pandemic further amplifies why the ODNI is uniquely positioned to serve as the Executive Agent for designing and implementing a transformed security classification system that leverages ODNI success in leading implementation of the Intelligence Community Information Technology Enterprise.

The response to COVID-19 provides an opportunity to accelerate the specific adaptation of new technologies for the digital transformation of classification and declassification. In the public interest, the Board will continue to study the implications of best practices and innovations in the IC driven by the ongoing public health emergency.

 

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