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04 Jan 2012

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Q&A: Information Sharing Environment’s Kshemendra Paul Discusses Responsible Information Sharing and Much More

Added by Category: Daily Intelligence Brief, General


Kshemendra Paul is the Program Manager for the Information Sharing Environment – an office administratively aligned under the Director of National Intelligence but with government-wide authorities. The goal of the ISE is to improve information sharing and safeguarding to enhance our national security and the safety of the American people. Mr. Paul participated in the Integrating Intelligence panel at GEOINT 2011, and we were able to discusses safe information sharing, the role of GEOINT in intelligence integration and much more with him. Check out our exclusive Q&A with him in this post.

Kshemendra, first, could you explain what the Information Sharing Environment is?
The Information Sharing Environment — or “ISE” — is the information infrastructure that enables responsible information sharing. The ISE enhances our national security and protects the American people. As such, the ISE supports the defense, diplomacy, homeland security, intelligence, and law enforcement communities. The PM-ISE’s role is to accelerate responsible information sharing – across the government, within the nation, and spanning the globe. ISE partners include federal, state, local, and tribal agencies, the private sector, and foreign allies.

What role can GEOINT play in the ISE?
The GEOINT community clearly is ahead of many others when it comes to information sharing. While I was at the GEOINT Symposium, I saw a lot of information sharing technology that I would call at the “retail” end -– that which directly supports the user. Great stuff. We also want to push the “wholesale” part of information sharing -– standards. We are working with the Open Geospatial Consortium (OGC) and building on their existing partnership with IJIS. We want to drive standards development. Why? So our government can better share and safeguard information, in a repeatable, cost-effective way. We heard a lot about the looming budget cuts at GEOINT – standards are one tool that can help us do more with less.

I also saw that the GEOINT community is firmly entrenched in the ISE — we want to build on that foundation. For example, a key initiative within the ISE is broadening interoperability among unclassified networks, to include the Secure But Unclassified (SBU) system that is used widely by the GEOINT community. The ISE vision is for a federal, state, local, and tribal law enforcement officer or analyst to log-in once and be granted access to an interoperable and assured SBU — or what is now called the Controlled Unclassified Information environment — regardless of who owns the systems. We need to be in lock-step with GEOINT-ers to make this a reality.

What is “responsible” information sharing?
The definition of “responsible” can mean many things to many people. From a legal perspective, responsible means complying with laws, regulations, and policies. If you’re in the Intelligence Community, responsible sharing would include the protection of sources and methods. Everyone likely would agree that responsible also should encompass physical, technical, and procedural means to protect information from malicious threats or unauthorized use. WikiLeaks has sharply illustrated the need to protect information, even as we develop better capabilities to share it.

But there’s a flip side to this, too. Responsible also means good stewardship. Yes, government agencies and other organizations should be held accountable for safeguarding information, but they have a responsibility to maximize the volume and variety of information that is discoverable and accessible. I can see that GEOINT Community “gets it” – the apps displayed on the iPad by Director Long at GEOINT show that NGA is pushing the stewardship concept.

Tell us about the recent Executive Order for Information Sharing and Safeguarding.
The WikiLeaks breach highlighted vulnerabilities in the protection of sensitive and classified information. President Obama signed Executive Order (EO) 13587 on October 7, 2011, which addresses structural reforms to the oversight of classified information. The EO supports, codifies, and accelerates ongoing work –- work that includes bolstering detection capabilities, restricting removable media, and strengthening governance, coordination and oversight.

The EO formally establishes the Classified Information Sharing and Safeguarding Office (CISSO) within my office. We are a part of the larger government response to WikiLeaks and will continue to focus on advancing government efforts to both share and safeguard classified national security information, including policy, process, technology and governance. This aligns with our mission to accelerate responsible information sharing across the totality of terrorism, WMD, and homeland security information.

What is the role of the private sector in the ISE?
The private sector plays a critical role in helping to create and shape the ISE. The information and communications technology sector is an important player in the development of standards – those rules or guidelines for products or related processes and production methods. Why are standards so important for the ISE? Standards foster interoperability, which is at the heart of the ISE. Moreover, standards promote innovation and collaboration, reduce operating costs, and generally make life simpler by providing solutions to complex problems. We need the private sector to be part of the dialogue that shapes the standards for the ISE, just as ISE mission partners need to include standards-based requirements into their procurement and acquisition processes.

I’m working with USGIF to schedule a series of dinners with key GEOINT community companies to discuss these concepts and elicit their ideas (and don’t worry, we’ll be going “no-host,” we’ll be transparent, and we will all act in accordance with applicable ethics rules!). We need their creativity and innovation to help develop the ISE.

This was your first time at the GEOINT Symposium, what were your impressions?
It was a great event with great people. I even blogged about it.

I came back to DC and charged my office to engage with the Open Geospatial Consortium on standards and team with USGIF to reach out to industry. I want to strengthen these relationships. And, I want to take this opportunity to challenge members of the GEOINT Community to find out more about the ISE and support this mission.

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