Advanced Computing in the Age of AI | Tuesday, June 28, 2022

U.S. Spy Master to Hire CIO 

The U.S. intelligence apparatus is looking for a spy to come in from the cold to serve as its first chief information officer.

The Office of the Director of National Intelligence (ODNI), the entity created in the aftermath of the 9/11 attacks to oversee the nation's far-flung intelligence operations, recently released a job description for the CIO position. Applications are restricted to internal candidates, largely because the position requires a "top secret" clearance.

The CIO job post was first reported by the web site MeriTalk.

The new CIO would oversee the U.S. intelligence agencies' transition from legacy IT systems to cloud services provided under the Intelligence Community Information Technology Enterprise (ICITE) platform. Along with modernizing spy agency IT infrastructure, the effort is intended to promote information sharing among 17 different U.S. intelligence agencies.

James Clapper, the director of national intelligence, oversees U.S. spy agencies, including the U.S. National Security Agency (NSA).

According to the recently released job description, the spy CIO would lead ODNI's "transition to the cloud through partnering with CIA and NSA cloud teams." The new CIO office would have the same budget and statutory authority as other federal CIOs and would oversee a staff of more than 200 IT specialists. About 20 staffers would report directly to the new CIO.

"The ODNI CIO will be the primary focal point of CIA’s Infrastructure Services Group (ISG) ensuring optimal delivery of IT services at the ODNI," the job description states. The new CIO "will in concert with ISG develop a cohesive strategy to migrate ODNI legacy services to the cloud in an expeditious manner and to retire legacy IT services across ODNI."

The new CIO position at the top of the U.S. spy pyramid also reflects frustration with the slow pace of cloud adoption. It is likely intended to jumpstart efforts to shift and store more intelligence agency data in the cloud under a single IT architecture.

Efforts to shift spy agencies to the ICITE platform have reportedly been slowed by bureaucratic resistance. The former acting director of the Defense Intelligence Agency said the resistance was "cultural" rather than technical or budget related. The former intelligence official, David Shedd, predicted last year it would take at least five years to deploy ICITE, according to a report on the web site FCW.

Along with overseeing the internal rollout of ICITE and other cloud migration efforts, the new CIO would represent Clapper's office and presumably have equal status with other intelligence agency CIOs. In that position, the new CIO would lead the integration of cloud-based IT services across the U.S. intelligence community.

The CIA, which now operates under Clapper's office, has moved aggressively to the cloud over the past two years. The CIA's CIO announced last year that its Amazon Web Services (NASDAQ: AMZN) cloud was being rolled out to 17 U.S. intelligence agencies. Still, security worries linger as spy agencies slowly make the transition from what one observer called "information hoarding to information sharing."

About the author: George Leopold

George Leopold has written about science and technology for more than 30 years, focusing on electronics and aerospace technology. He previously served as executive editor of Electronic Engineering Times. Leopold is the author of "Calculated Risk: The Supersonic Life and Times of Gus Grissom" (Purdue University Press, 2016).

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