Intelligence community wants ‘top secret’ cloud systems

By Shannon Jenkins

Monday December 14, 2020

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The federal government is on the hunt for a cloud provider that can deliver ‘top secret’, highly secure community cloud services for the National Intelligence Community.

In a request for expressions of interest on Friday, the Office of National Intelligence said the NIC is looking to partner with cloud providers to deliver and sustain secure, scalable and private community cloud systems at the ‘top secret’ security classification for use by the 10 NIC agencies, and potentially other agencies.

The call is in response to a recommendation of the 2017 Independent Intelligence Review, which highlighted the need for increased interoperability in data and ICT across the NIC, ONI noted.

“Interoperability is essential for an efficient and effective community as it underpins collaboration and data sharing capabilities,” it said.

“The NIC seeks greater interoperability through shared common services, common infrastructure, and standards, centralisation of services, and the ability to create collaborative environments.”

Read more: Major review of intelligence laws makes ‘controversial’ recommendations

The NIC must “ensure that its ICT capabilities allow for continued rapid development of innovative tools and systems”, according to ONI. As the volume of data the NIC processes grows in size and complexity, the NIC also needs solutions that will help accelerate its ability to scale the processing and analysis of large datasets.

“In particular, it is seeking efficiency gains where more data can be processed with the same number of human resources,” it said.

“The NIC has a wide variety of business requirements in the areas of data processing and will need a solution able to support a variety of data processing mechanisms, including bespoke toolsets and commercial off-the-shelf (COTS) products. The NIC is seeking to accelerate its ability to transpose and extract relevant data from complex data sources. It sees common toolsets for data filtering and manipulation to extract relevant useful information as a force multiplier.”

The NIC has indicated that it’s hoping to utilise data-driven analysis using artificial intelligence and machine learning services, and embrace digital transformation practices to increase operating efficiencies.

It’s also seeking to:

  • Adopt a cloud operating model that allows for commonality of platform and technology while enabling independence of mission and corporate capabilities at the ‘top secret’ level,
  • Modernise IT work practices characterised by the consumption of services and development of cloud native applications,
  • Consume commercially provided cloud services to support corporate and mission workloads,
  • Establish secure collaborative spaces to enable the creation of shared and joint mission workloads,
  • Enable trusted third-parties to operate software-as-a-service (SaaS) offerings on the private community cloud,
  • Use AI to automate, enhance and enable key parts of the data lifecycle, as well as derive meaning from large volumes of data,
  • Ensure the NIC is equipped with the best technologies to fulfil its mission.

The government is accepting submissions until February 8.

Read more: Australia’s intelligence agencies send mixed signals on openness and transparency


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