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15 November 2006

Military webstates in the Balkanized network

Everyone wants to build and own their own network. It’s easy to justify on the grounds of security, service specific needs, operational necessities, and a host of other reasons set forth by every IT manager and technician ever to pick up a keyboard.

Of course, this defeats the purpose of the network, in which its utility is predicated on the number of users and the range of available applications. The network exists merely to enable that connectivity. The impulse towards Balkanization – driven in the commercial world most often by greed and shortsightedness – defeats this purpose entirely.

In the ever-divided house of the “joint” military, Balkanization of the Parallel World is driven equally by shortsightedness. It seems however that a small victory against this mindset may be on the horizon, predicated on the successful model of that least networked of services, the Army.

A joint AKO type environment is long overdue. Scaling a DOD wide common web accessible collaboration environment should not have taken five years into the Long War. The lack of this capability has not promoted security – instead is has no doubt spurred dozens of work-arounds and hacks that are less secure and less useful. After all, when some government users were forced to use commercial webmail just for reasons of space and reliability, it demonstrates this is a bad thing.

Here are a few suggestions for this new effort:

  • Include other government agencies beyond DOD with key common interests, such as the other members of the community
  • Incorporate contractors not as individuals tied to a specific contract and KO approval, but as individuals tied to their (verified) employer. Given the mobility of most contractors between client assignments, this will solve a lot of connectivity headaches and result in better tracking and verification.
  • Tie in seamless connectivity to Open Source Information System (OSIS) hosted resources, including OSC (without yet another login….)
  • Incorporate better hosted services for collaboration and lightweight publishing. Yes, this means blogs. It also means Web 2.0 type services such Flikr, and Writely. And make sure that Google drives the search applications. Plus tag support for clouds and folksonomies. In short, support the full range of network IT services as they are developed out in the commercial world.
  • Incorporate an unclassified version of Intellipedia to encourage wider contributions for DOD and IC specific subject matter expertise
  • Integrate a decent online reader that can accept i2 and other link analysis visualization without needing a local install
If this is beginning to sound a lot like an unclassified “lite” version of what Intelink was supposed to be, there’s a reason…