ODNI’s Dawn Meyerriecks: Capacity on demand, virtualization, analytics rank high

Among emerging technologies, analytics is an area that Dawn Meyerriecks, ODNI's Deputy Director of National Intelligence for Acquisition and Technology, is “pretty passionate“ about. “I won't say we resolved all of our information-sharing problems “¦ we'll never whack the last mole on that one,“ she says. “However, we've moved up the stack, so now we have big data sets.“ Going forward, government could take a cue from private industry on how to leverage analytics to help run an operation, says Meyerriecks. “We can't scale analysts at the rate of data ingestion,“ she says. “What we have to do “” and industry has made great strides here in terms of their managed CPU per administrator “” is have more and more CPUs that are able to be managed by fewer and fewer people.“ That requires automating anomalies to the “extent that it is possible,“ she says.

Advice to vendors

In the midst of those emerging technologies, Meyerriecks has this word of advice for vendors: “ISP-ASP [model], we know how to do that,“ says Meyerriecks. “That's not interesting anymore.“ Ultimately, ODNI, she says, would like to see a shift from commoditized infrastructure toward phenomenology, analytics, business intelligence, and competitive intelligence. “That's where the money is,“ she says, “We're going to be overtly moving in that direction.“

So, where does that leave vendors? “If you're just an IT infrastructure provider, we can probably hire a thousand of you and it can be a bidding war because that's not even interesting computer science anymore,“ says Meyerriecks. “It's not trivial but it is a solved problem.“

The next step for vendors, she says, is to differentiate based upon understanding the Intelligence Community’s mission. “We will continue to pay top dollar for that because that is where the problem is,“ says Meyerriecks. Certainly, challenges exist for vendors in gaining that mission understanding. “Classification does sometimes present a barrier “¦ we see trends across the community that, perhaps, are not obvious to the suppliers because each one of them is in their own little agency or contract space,“ says Meyerriecks. Toward that end, her team has started to collect those trends, and has been holding debriefing meetings with each of their primary suppliers, at a very senior level, on tech trends across the community “” or, what Meyerriecks refers to as “an enterprise.“

“Among the things that I talk to [vendor] CEOs a lot about are platforms and virtualized computing,“ says Meyerriecks. Such vendors rank high on her list when they adopt the following approach: “Define your own platforms and bid them consistently “” and put your own value on top of that.“

What's Ahead

Looking ahead, Meyerriecks will continue to focus on coordinating “” or “catalyzing,“ as she puts it “” technical research and acquisition across all technology areas of interest to the intelligence community, just as each individual agency and IARPA focus on delivering  technical capability to end users. “I think we need to take on the tech transition question, and that probably involves how we do acquisitions, as well,“ says Meyerriecks. “This always makes everybody a bit nervous but if we can do the right things, we can reduce risk in MSAs [major system acquisitions],“ she says. “I also think we need to think about tech insertion into MSAs, and we need to think overtly [because] lots of tech gets put out that never comes to MSA and that needs to be OK.“

Where does industry fit into that future scenario? “We've got to get closer and we've got to bring non-traditional partners in “¦ the Amazons, the Googles, or whomever that generally aren't in the first orbital [of government-industry collaboration],“ says Meyerriecks. “That would be a challenge that I would lay on our classical partners, which is, “˜If you can lean forward on that, that [approach] would serve us both well.'“

UP CLOSE: Dawn Meyerriecks, ODNI's Deputy Director of National Intelligence for Acquisition and Technology

Most admire in IT: “It sounds cliché but Steve Jobs is pretty amazing “¦ he keeps reinventing himself.“

Favorite website: Seth Godin's Blog

Latest book read and enjoyed: The Inheritance: The World Obama Confronts and the Challenges to American Power

Hobbies: Gardening and reading

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