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Technical Modernization for the Intelligence Community

People and Technology: Accelerating a Strategic Partnership

Each agency faces different challenges in modernizing for the ever-evolving complexities of the national security mission. We help organizations maximize the implementation of leading-edge tech while helping them chart a prioritization strategy that supports a realistic transformation. Here are four principles we apply in bringing next-generation capabilities:

  • Provide open, scalable solutions that fit the need. “We look at the latest technology and how we can use it to advance the organization’s mission and get outcomes to stakeholders faster,” says Josh Perrius, Booz Allen vice president and leader of our digital modernization IC support.
  • Create a unique solution that leverages existing tools. Whether an agency is at the leading edge of technology or transforming legacy systems with a phased approach, our technologists meet stakeholders wherever they are on the digital continuum. We have an array of tools and strategies we can adapt to solve the immediate problem while positioning the agency for the next level of transformation—for example, multi-intelligence (multi-INT) fusion and cross-domain integration.
  • Create an environment for top talent to thrive. “We want people to be engaged in challenges that excite and interest them. So emerging tech is a win-win, keeping our experts curious and thriving and helping our clients mature technically,” says Becky Robertson, a vice president who heads cybersecurity for national security programs.
  • She also explained that our strategists tailor end-to-end solutions for the unique cultural considerations of each organization. “We are the architects and integrators, working side by side with agencies to help them achieve sustained success,” Becky says. This helps ensure that in addition to fulfilling the immediate requirements, each engagement accelerates progress for goals such as those in the “Second Epoch" vision. We help navigate transformation across dimensions, from implementing cloud computing for tradecraft at scale to realizing the benefits of a hybrid cleared workforce.
  • Eliminate technical surprise in a fast-changing world. Our cybersecurity solutions and services help intelligence agencies stay ahead of the threat wherever they take their mission. “No one wants to suddenly find out an adversary’s technology has changed and realize they are not prepared for it,” says Becky.

Innovation for Technology Modernization

The IC needs to deliver deeper insights faster to defenders of the nation. That makes advanced analysis, artificial intelligence/machine learning (AI/ML), and cloud capabilities strategic priorities—technical advances that must be accomplished without compromising security.

Technical development is one element; implementation is another. “Our clients often have a vision of innovation. Then there’s the practical side: How do we get this done to achieve the vision? They don’t have the time to figure it out. So it helps that we know the mission side and we also understand the external world—advising commercial industries on cybersecurity for operational technology, for example. We don’t just execute based on best guesses. We bring that external experience with us to enrich our solutions with innovative ideas, translating the vision to the day-to-day mission,” says Becky.

“We use commercial technologies in creative ways to meet the need. If a capability doesn’t exist, we build it,” Josh explains. For example, we developed Global4SightTM for clients who need immediate geopolitical insights and analysis and District Defend to ensure security for remote devices.

Download Our IC Digital Transformation Guide

Agility to Adapt: DevSecOps for Changing Missions

The world is changing faster and the IC must too. Our strategists and technologists use agile practices to accelerate clients’ transformation journey.

Open Architectures: Modularity and Velocity

Our teams apply open-architecture technologies allowing us to modernize rapidly while embedding security into every step. Our transformation is:

  • Modular – Using government-owned application user interfaces (API) enabling microservices and other plug-and-play capabilities
  • Interoperable – Enabling open data frameworks to share across systems
  • Scalable – Allowing for experiments and enhancements before widespread rollout
  • Upgradable – Adaptable for new missions, in some cases with push-button ease

Continual Improvement: “Resiliency Without Needing a Reset”

“We start on a small scale and then iterate so we can change quickly with new developments. Maintaining a DevSecOps environment enables that approach,” says Josh. For example, he noted, phenomenology and communications technologies are always changing. “We need to exploit those, not rest on the fact that we used to collect information a certain way.”

DevSecOps and agile software practices allow us to deliver new capabilities rapidly and pivot for changing requirements. “The client gets resiliency without needing a total reset,” says Becky.

She explains that our mission understanding allows us to do regular retrospectives from both a strategic and technical point of view. Josh agrees: “We like to challenge the status quo. We’re always saying, ‘How can we do this better?’ Having the agile mindset in both the mission and technical sides lets us deliver with greater velocity.”

Advanced Analysis for National Security

Advancing U.S. tradecraft requires a focus on AI and ML, areas where Booz Allen is at the forefront. We help the IC operationalize AI to automate routine analysis. This frees analysts to concentrate on the most challenging problems. We also apply technologies like natural language processing to give analysts a broad view of multi-INT data.

“Our focus is, 'Can we get the data quickly to the right place to do the computing? Can we make updates quickly to AI and ML algorithms? And then can we disseminate the insights to the right platforms downstream that will make decisions?’” says Josh.

Keeping Humans in the Loop

There’s also the human aspect. For example, we’re always advancing the data analytics and natural language processing used in ML algorithms. At the same time, we understand the need for transparency.

“Analysts don't want a black box that says, ‘Don't worry, we will figure this out for you,’” says Josh. Intelligence professionals need the ability to inspect algorithmic inputs for accuracy and avoid bias, ensuring ethical AI practices. At the same time, those algorithms need to be protected. We lead research and development into ways to defend AI against attack.

Real-Time Analytics at the Edge

“We understand the capabilities as well as the vulnerabilities of edge devices,” says Becky. “That allows us to help analytics become much more efficient wherever our clients take the mission.”

In addition, we’re advancing ways to provide edge processing even in degraded and contested environments where low size, weight, and power are critical. For example, we worked with the U-2 Federal Lab to develop containerized microservices enabling edge processing for a successful test of the military’s first AI copilot. We also offer edge computing capabilities, allowing clients to create secure, flexible ecosystems using existing devices.

There’s another way we are advancing the mission: “We’re increasing the speed at which we can pull data back,” says Josh, supporting initiatives such as space-based Internet services via clusters of satellites and 5G capabilities. This allows clients greater flexibility in processing approaches.

Elevating Benefits with Cloud

“We were part of the initial standup of cloud computing in the classified domain,” says Josh. And we continue to innovate, providing a security-first perspective to the cloud services we provide for a broad base of clients. Intelligence, defense, and Fortune 500 companies are realizing the efficiencies of services such as increased automation and built-in security.

We use our experience across hundreds of large-scale cloud migrations and our expertise as a third-party certifier (C3 PAO) to provide rapid, efficient transformation. In addition, we package tools and processes like those we used to stand up the U.S. Treasury’s FedRAMP-high accredited cloud so we can apply proven strategies rapidly.

Once skeptical of cloud security, more and more intelligence agencies are realizing the benefits of embedded protection. “The more automated security is, the more secure it will be,” says Josh, noting that cloud frees multiple system administrators from making individual patches.  “And we apply measures such as zero trust to our solutions, so you secure information at every step in the process,” says Becky.

Bridge to Tomorrow

“Problems are so multidimensional now. We have to engage in a broader sphere so groups can collaborate to get new insights,” says Josh. Here are two of the areas where we build partnerships.

Connecting Silicon Valley to the IC

“We’ve invested in building labs and providing prototypes to grow our intellectual capital, expand the skills of our staff, and create collaborative environments for innovative engagements with clients, industry, and academia—for example, our 5G lab,” says Becky. In addition, our tech scouting services forecast trends and open up collaboration with startups and other nontraditional partners.

Connecting Intel and Industry

“Adversarial countries are pouring resources into their tech buildup. We’re not going to outspend them, so we need to be really good at identifying the best capabilities in industry and enhance them or incorporate them in novel ways for the intelligence mission,” says Josh. Banking is an example of an industry that shares the need for true attribute-based access control for disparate data merged into one ecosystem.

The flow of information goes two ways, Becky points out. “Security is more than a government function; it’s also about protecting national resources and assets. And industry is part of that. Adversaries are focused on these soft targets. Every aspect of society needs to be protected.”

Case Study: Clairvoyant

An intelligence agency wanted a solution to help get machine learning developed and deployed into operations for mission-critical national systems. But the IC’s complex operational environment had made progress difficult. In addition, each application needed to be custom-developed by cloud deployment experts and was subject to accreditation requirements. We provided a DevSecOps tool suite including:

  • A deployment framework that includes Kubernetes clusters for hosting containerized software, a continuous integration and continuous deployment pipeline integrated with security checkpoints to automate security accreditations, and program health monitoring and metrics.
  • An integrated data platform that combines data warehousing, query tools, discovery tools, and streaming services.
  • A solution that allows data scientists to leverage the power of Amazon SageMaker via a secure portal so they can collaboratively build, train, and deploy machine learning models for their mission use cases.

Benefits for intelligence:

  • Enables secure exploitation of ML models
  • Accelerates mission timelines via rapid deployment
  • Delivers new insights into exponentially increasing data.
 
Learn more about Clairvoyant.

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