January 03, 2023

Article
3 min

How AI and Commercial Solutions Have Become Essential to Defense Intelligence

The right technology optimizes the flow of mission-critical data for federal agencies.

Josh Weiner

Defense intelligence agencies work to get relevant information to warfighters on the ground, around the world, as quickly and securely as possible. That’s the mission in a nutshell. Over the years, much has changed about how agencies accomplish that goal, the threats they face and how adversaries aim to disrupt messages and data. What has stayed the same is the need to move essential data so that people on the field can make decisions as quickly and effectively as possible.

The Department of Defense Intelligence Information System (DoDIIS) Worldwide Conference, held Dec. 12–15 in San Antonio, brought together leaders and innovators from all corners of the defense intelligence field to discuss their mission and the challenges they face. The theme of this year’s conference was “Transcending Strategic Competition Through Innovation, Adaptation and Collaboration” — a reflection of what the Defense Intelligence Agency described as “the urgent race to collectively develop and unleash emerging technologies to maintain strategic and tactical advantage.” 

Two capabilities — secure access to classified data and artificial intelligence — are crucial for enabling agencies to achieve these goals.

Commercial Solutions for Classified Program Brings Mobility to Data Access

The National Security Agency’s Commercial Solutions for Classified (CSfC) program aims to ensure that intelligence professionals and warfighters have the information they need — when and where they need it. CSfC enables agencies to layer encrypted solutions onto commercial IT systems to allow for classified communications. 

Historically, intelligence and defense agencies have spent significant amounts of funds on infrastructure such as dedicated circuits and computers required to secure classified data. Accessing classified information has also been time-consuming and cumbersome, requiring multiple endpoints and dedicated physical spaces. CSfC reduces both cost and complexity by enabling faster deployment and extending classified networks to allow secure, remote access in field locations where it hasn’t been possible before.

CDW’s CSfC solution is Enterprise Cross-Domain Access with Zero Trust (ECDA), which lets users log in to a virtual desktop infrastructure environment from an authorized device. Depending on their authorization, the user can then access multiple independent levels of secure enclaves — supporting multi-domain operations with the simplicity of a single device.

In addition to eliminating the need for multiple devices for classified access, ECDA also ensures that information continues to flow even if a user can’t reach a dedicated classified infrastructure. This level of ease and flexibility, combined with NSA-level security, is vital as agencies continuously work to future-proof their operations.

Agencies Continue to Push AI Applications Forward

This year’s DoDIIS event also included extensive discussions about artificial intelligence and machine learning. With AI, the intelligence priorities are twofold: first, to ensure agencies have the technology  to maintain a competitive advantage against U.S. adversaries, and second, to understand how adversaries use AI against agencies.

Just as adversaries use disruptive technologies to gather information on intelligence operations, agencies are finding new ways to deploy AI to establish tactical and strategic advantages against unfriendly counterparts. One of the most effective uses of AI is to anticipate and identify “unknown unknowns” — the security risks that aren’t yet on anyone’s radar.

Another application is AIops, or the integration of AI into IT operations. Here, the goal is all about speed. For example, if a technology issue is impeding the operation of an agency’s IT infrastructure, the agency can deploy AIops, such as self-healing technologies, to fix the issue and prevent it from causing downtime or delaying the flow of critical information.

Data and insights have become valuable assets in the business world, and they are critical enablers for federal agencies as well. Intelligence professionals depend on the security of the data they use and the insights they can glean from it.

Story by Josh Weiner