Defense Intelligence Agency leadership on Monday said the office is focused on improving data interoperability and sharing information at scale with its new capability opportunities, including a new flagship system for intelligence distribution. 

Army Lt. Gen. Robert Ashley, the DIA director, called the new Machine-assisted Analytic Rapid-Repository System (MARS) program his office’s “moonshot,” pushing industry to bring forward capability concepts to address big data challenges.

Lt. Gen. Robert Ashley, director of the Defense Intelligence Agency

“With all the unique designs that you bring to the Department of Defense, everything has to talk to everything else, otherwise we will be sub-optimized and we will miss opportunities,” Ashley told attendees at the DoDIIS conference in Tampa, Florida. “We can solve problems at speed. Our challenge is to solve them at scale.”

Ashley said MARS is an opportunity for industry to present new solutions to address interoperability challenges, while also going after artificial intelligence and machine learning tools to drive improved efficiency for DIA analysts.

“That flagship capability is how we take information at speed and scale, and then allow analysts to think and work their way through problems so that they’re not doing these repetitive things and laborious research,” Ashley said. “The best way to describe it is we have a vision to create, the best that we can, a virtual model of our adversaries and our competitors. MARS is our attempt to start building that baseline.”

DIA will hold an industry day for MARS in September that will detail the program’s plans to modernize the defense intelligence enterprise after determining the legacy Modernized Integrated Database can “no longer meet the information demands of a 21st century military” (Defense Daily, Aug. 16). 

Jack Gumtow, DIA’s chief information officer, added the office is looking at capabilities to better maximize data to ensure the best use of industry’s latest technology advancements.

“Without data you have a set of tools that I’m not sure what the real value proposition is, so data is the common denominator that we must get straight,” Gumtow said. “We’re not there yet. Data is hard. It comes in at speed, with volume and veracity. We’re working on it, but we don’t quite have that fully harnessed yet.”

Ashley noted DIA is working to address the challenge of more rapidly integrating commercial applications on DoD networks with industry.

“I would ask you take the words proprietary and no foreign out of your lexicon. We cannot do that. We have got to be able to share with our allies and partners,” Ashley said. “The door is open for us to be able to push hard on our ability to share.”