Defense Intelligence Agency Boosts Search Firepower

The U.S. military's latest maneuver could improve search efforts beyond basic keywords and apply search technologies that better help its personnel connect the dots.
The DIA first went live with its Endeca-based search system in early 2006 by providing its intelligence gatherers and analysts with access to any intelligence gathered by field staff in the form of reports. Thanks to Endeca's ability to place search findings into categories, the DIA not only improved its search capabilities, "we also see we're missing entire areas of information that we need to collect," Shepherd said.

"Search injects a note of serendipity into the information finding business," said Sue Feldman, IDC's VP for search and digital marketplace technologies. "Exact matching, like in a database application, only gets you what you ask for. In the defense setting, what you're looking for is what you don't know enough to ask for."

Workers spend up to 10 hours each week trying to find information, and they waste half of that time by not being able to find it, Feldman said, adding, "In the case of the DIA, this could have serious consequences."

The use of advanced search technologies will continue to grow in the intelligence community. The DIA is now using its experience with Endeca to work with the Office of the Director of National Intelligence to improve the navigability of that organization's defense intelligence. Endeca is part of the DIA's larger services oriented architecture approach called ALIEN, or all-source intelligence environment, started last summer.

The lessons learned from intelligence failures of the past are hard to ignore. "We take very seriously the mandate of the 9/11 Commission and the WMD commission to do vastly better intelligence gathering and analysis," Shepherd said.

With so many U.S. troops in the field counting on the DIA, the agency couldn't have picked a better time to expand its search capabilities.

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