DIA updates systems, strategy and organizational structure
The Defense Intelligence Agency is reviewing two critical but aging intelligence systems along with its strategy and organizational structure to improve the organization’s ability to provide critical intelligence on military personnel around the world.
Lieutenant-General Scott Berrier, United States, director of the agency commonly known as DIA, places the modernization of the Joint Worldwide Intelligence Communications System (JWICS) as a top priority, as well as the further development of the assisted rapid analysis repository. by machine. System (MARS). JWICS is a top secret intranet administered by the DIA for the intelligence community. MARS is a cloud-based system that uses artificial intelligence and machine learning to automatically filter tons of data, perform mundane analysis, and free intelligence analysts to perform more complex analyzes.
The DIA director notes that the agency has a five-year plan to modernize JWICS, which he describes as a top-secret information super superhighway. “It’s a key part of everything we do here. This is the key to the intelligence community and our nation. What we want to do is make sure it’s as secure as possible, that we modernize it with a technology update, and as the Department of Defense moves to its instantiation in the cloud, what whatever it looks like, we keep pace.
JWICS was established about 30 years ago. Retired Lieutenant General James Clapper, USAF, former director of the DIA, approved the development of the system in 1990. Initially, it was only available to a few select users, but was installed in the White House under the President Bill Clinton. Over time, the number of sites has grown to around 50, according to a DIA article, and usage has skyrocketed in recent years.
At this point, suggests General Berrier, JWICS essentially acts as a command and control network as well as an information dissemination system. “Every combat commander has it on their desk, and they use it for a lot more than just disseminating information, so we need to make sure our end users have the right kit at the right time that is up to date and up to date. . ” he explains. “Some of the JWICS kits that we have are a little older than they should be, and I’m not comfortable with that, so the investment is going into new material, going into resilience with the encryption for security, and also to make sure that when the cloud instantiation happens, that we’re in the right position to be able to do it. ”
With more funding, he would also like to modernize the system more quickly. “The president’s budget is the president’s budget. We support this for sure. But if I had more money, we could go faster, and we’re working on it right now with our Under Secretary of Defense for Intelligence. [Ronald Moultrie]», He reports.
When asked how much more money he would like to speed up the modernization of the top secret system, the general refuses to publicly disclose a dollar figure.
If the pressure were to take hold, General Berrier said, he would probably give JWICS priority over MARS. “We see these things evolving on parallel priorities. If I had to pick one now, because JWICS is so essential to our country’s needs for the dissemination of sensitive information, I would say JWICS would be number one, but MARS is definitely a very close number two.
In 2025, MARS is expected to fully replace the current modernized integrated database, known as MIDB. MARS consists of a data environment, an infrastructure module and an order of battle module. The agency announced earlier this year the availability of an early version of the Order of Battle module, which describes the hierarchy of foreign military units in the context of the units’ geographic location, as well as the equipment assigned to them. .
DIA officials plan for additional capacities and work with “key partners” to define these capacities. “We have a plan over the next five years to really populate our intelligence mission data, our cyber module and our space module, and that will complement it,” General Berrier said.
Another aging system is the MIDB, which MARS replaces. “MIDB – still a 30-year-old system – and think of the good old days when analysts looked at information gathered, pencils and truncated maps and Excel spreadsheets for record updates,” suggests General Berrier . “It got better over time, but with MARS it happens automatically. “
MARS also allows the agency “to use all the national technical collection we can to understand everything about fundamental military intelligence for any military installation in the world,” he adds. “So we can also now use efficient and open source tools and data [intelligence] that really enrich every record.
MARS is needed in part because of the explosion of intelligence data available. “What MARS is going to do is completely enrich what MIDB had and although we are experimenting with MARS right now, the number of records for each installation location is increasing exponentially as we look at this data. This will give us a lot more information than in the past, ”the general said.
The modernized JWICS and MARS will help the agency better support the Department of Defense and the intelligence community as the United States focuses on strategic competition with peer or close adversaries such as China, Russia, the United States. North Korea and extremist groups.
Shortly after assuming the leadership of the DIA in October, General Berrier approved a new threat-based strategy, which he describes as a natural evolution of the capability-based strategy and taking into account the threats of his predecessor. .
It also initiated a reorganization that includes the creation of a Global Integration Directorate, which reached initial operational capacity on July 1. It is headed by a deputy director of global integration, who now oversees the agency’s intelligence centers around the world. These centers are linked to the combatants’ commands.
The deputy director for global integration will also have some budgetary authority over other parts of the agency, including the directorates of analysis, operations and science and technology. “It’s a new way of thinking about the problem and taking advantage of all these capacities that we have on a global scale so that we can look at what the Chinese, the Russians and others are doing to us and how we can provide opportunities. to counter that, ”the general said. Berrier says.
The general public, however, will likely never know the benefits offered. “Once we build our direction for global integration, I think you’re going to see quick wins. We probably won’t be able to discuss these quick wins in an unclassified setting, but it is the ability to take sensitive information, bring that information to light, and then present it as opportunities to our key partners, that it is. these are combat commands, whether it is the Ministry of Defense or foreign partners.
China is the most worrying competitor of the United States. “We are talking about the rise of China. I think China has increased. The investments they’ve made and the expansion of their military capability have been pretty amazing when you think about what they’re spending their precious defense money on, and the capabilities they’ve been able to pursue and produce are interesting.
But Russia should not be ignored, he warns. “Right now, China is the threat of stimulus, but I always tell people, ‘Don’t count on Russia.’ When you think of Russia’s nuclear triad, they pose an existential threat to the United States of America. They have proven this through cyber attacks and the fact that they have used chemical and biological weapons on their own citizens inside and outside their own country, this makes it a threat that we need to watch and watch out for. very carefully.
He suggests that the changes will help operationalize the intelligence provided by DIA analysts. So, rather than simply collecting, analyzing and reporting intelligence data, the agency may also offer options for dealing with the information contained in its reports. “It’s about dealing with sensitive information in a timely manner so that it can provide new opportunities for the department that they might not have thought of with the grinding of current information and everything in between,” he said. “So everything I’ve said about JWICS and MARS now really supports strategic competition against China, Russia, North Korea, Iran, and violent extremist organizations.”