A-Space: Social Networking for Intelligence Analysts

I am always encouraged when I see the US Government take interesting ideas from the commercial and Web 2.0 spaces and apply them to improve intelligence and national security.

Towards that end, I have always been a fan of In-Q-Tel, the “venture arm” of the CIA, which I consider a highly innovative approach to ensuring that the intelligence community is plugged into Silicon Valley and has access to cutting edge technology.

In a similar vein, I like the idea of A-Space, a collaboration system presumably modeled on MySpace-style social networking and profiled in this Information Week story.


A-Space will begin life as a portal that includes a Web-based word processing tool akin to Google (NSDQ: GOOG) Docs, a wiki-based intelligence community encyclopedia known as Intellipedia and access to three “huge, terabyte databases” of current raw intel for analysts to sift through. It’ll be scaled for 10,000 users at day one. By the end of 2008, the DNI hopes to bring in other resources like intelligence blogs, social networking capabilities akin to a Facebook for spooks, secure Web-base e-mail, better search functionality, and much more.

More interestingly, Lewis Shepherd, recently departed (and headed to Microsoft) chief of the innovation directorate of the Defense intelligence Agency (DIA), blogs about A-Space here, with a very quotable quote at the end of the second paragraph:

Our team at DIA got assigned by the Director of National Intelligence (DNI) to design and build A-Space, a brand new social-networking environment for the full intelligence community – “the MySpace for spies.” We’re talking a very high-walled Walled Garden.

I had to devote (not to say divert) some of our most talented people leading the all-important Alien program to this new effort, which really only began in September. Phase I of A-Space must go live by the end of the year; Phase II (with more advanced Web 2.0 capabilities) just a few months later. We expect no delay to Alien – the larger and in many ways more fundamental effort – but the experience has been akin to having the NASA Apollo XI team also asked to “figure a way to stop by Mars first.”

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