Clapper: Spy agencies doing ‘pretty well’ on acquisition reform

Director of National Intelligence James Clapper addresses the 2016 Intelligence and National Security Summit. (Herman Farrer)

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U.S. intelligence agencies have a good track record on acquisition reform and their integrated IT infrastructure, known as ICITE, is already delivering results and will endure under a new administration, Director of National Intelligence James Clapper said Wednesday.

He added that, in his view, intelligence agencies would “one day” extend “dual citizenship” to their counterpart agencies in the so-called Five Eyes group — the United States, Australia, Britain, Canada and New Zealand.

“I would say we’re doing pretty well” on acquisition reform, Clapper told the 2016 Intelligence and National Security Summit. He said that the 26 major procurement programs in the intelligence community — as the sprawling collection of espionage agencies he oversees is known — were “for the most part … green,” meaning they were not over-running their budget or timetables by more than a small margin.

Despite the fact that the intelligence budget is classified, Clapper, said the programs get “very rigorous oversight” from his office and the Pentagon. “They get a lot of governance,” he said. He singled out the community’s continued commitment to research and development saying that spending on researching new technology had been sustained at 5 percent of the $50 billion-plus National Intelligence Program.

“I think we’ve done a reasonably good job with that, given the pressures and vicissitudes of program management these days,” he told a packed ballroom at the Washington Convention Center.

On the community’s ambitious network integration plan, known as the Intelligence Community IT Environment or ICITE, Clapper said he believed the initiative would endure under his successor.

It’s not just that it’s too “difficult to turn off,” he said, “People are really starting to see the virtue of ICITE. It’s actually not about an IT upgrade, it’s a fundamental change in the way we do our business.”

“People are voting with their feet so to speak,” he said. He was pressed for an example by moderator Letitia Long, former director of the National Geospatial-Intelligence Agency and chairwoman of the board of the Intelligence and National Security Alliance.

“One of the benefits we’re seeing is … discovery,” he said. That’s a function whereby, when an analyst is searching for data and there is information that he or she does not have the right clearance to access, they can at least see that there is additional material there.

“We’ve seen examples of that working in counter-proliferation,” he said, adding he couldn’t give further details in an unclassified setting.

Asked about information sharing with foreign partners, he predicted that the United States would eventually get close enough to its five eyes partners that it would no longer treat them as foreigners at all.

“At some point … we’re going to do away with the NOFORN restriction for commonwealth countries and perhaps extend dual citizenship … to their agencies.”

“We’re doing more and more integrated operations,” he said.

The event was co-organized by AFCEA International and INSA.

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Government IT News, ICITE, Information Sharing, James Clapper, Office of the Director of National Intelligence (ODNI), Procurement
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