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December 14, 2007
 

TOP CIO TURNS
TO FACEBOOK


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James Bond’s key accessories are a tux, a few high-tech gadgets, and . . . a MySpace page?  Okay, you won’t see that last one in the movies, but then fiction is never as strange as real life—in which today’s U.S. intelligence community is turning on to the power of blogging, social networking, and “Intellipedia.”  The online innovations are being championed by Dale Meyerrose, CIO for the Director of National Intelligence.

Dale became CIO and Associate Director at DNI in late 2005, leaving behind a 30-year career in the Air Force.  He retired as a Major General, and his daughter Laura just might achieve that rank someday, too—she’s currently an Air Force Lieutenant.  

Dale says there are “no technical issues” in his job at the DNI, the post-September 11th creation with a legislative mandate to head up the nation’s 16 intelligence services.  The way he looks at it, “all issues are people issues.”  That includes one of his main responsibilities:  encouraging collaboration among intelligence agencies. 

Toward that end, Dale has been introducing one of the most powerful information-sharing tools around—web forums like blogs and wikis—to the intelligence community’s version of the internet, called the “Intelink.”  At the start of his efforts, in July of ’06, Dale oversaw the creation of a pilot group blog on the avian flu.  A few months later, an official in the Surgeon General’s office declared it the best resource on the subject anywhere.  In addition to blogs, the Intelink now features an increasingly robust Intellipedia, which has a “look and feel” similar to Wikipedia.  (Although unlike Wikipedia, all contributions are attributed for greater accountability.)  A social networking application like Facebook also has been rolled out.

The day before we sat down with Dale last week, he and his intelligence CIO counterparts had settled on a single email system to be used throughout the entire intelligence community.  He recently returned from a trip to Iraq and Afghanistan with CIOs from the FBI, NSA, the National Geospatial-Intelligence Agency, and the Defense Intelligence Agency, to see how they could help deployed personnel.

While Dale says there has been some resistance to the web-inspired innovations—due to a perception that wikis and blog are imprecise, as well as traditional aversion to info-sharing among agencies—for the most part, they have been embraced by intelligence personnel.  More than half of today’s analysts, according to Dale, have been on the job fewer than 5 years and are highly in tune with the collaborative ways of the web.  He says that “early adopters” were critical to the success of the new Intelink projects.

Dale has a collection of 40 eagles and falcons (the Air Force Academy mascot), most of which were given to him as gifts.  He says he would keep them in his office, but visitors might think they’d stepped onto the set of “The Birds.”  

Contributions to the blogs and wikis, Dale says, have led to some assignments in the field.  Alerts can be issued based on information the new applications turn up, which link back to older processes for generating real-life missions.    

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