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Contractor’s Dream – Intelligence Nightmare

Siobhan Gorman blazes a trail through Ft. Meade:

A program that was supposed to help the National Security Agency pluck out electronic data crucial to the nation’s safety is not up and running more than six years and $1.2 billion after it was launched, according to current and former government officials.

The classified project, code-named Trailblazer, was promoted as the NSA’s state-of-the-art tool for sifting through an ocean of modern-day digital communications and uncovering key nuggets to protect the nation against an ever-changing collection of enemies.

Its main goal when it was launched in 1999 was to enable NSA analysts to connect the 2 million bits of data the agency ingests every hour — a task that has grown increasingly complex with the advent of the Internet, cell phones, and instant messaging — and enable analysts to quickly pick out the most important information. […]

Trailblazer is “the biggest boondoggle going on now in the intelligence community,” said Matthew Aid, who has advised three recent federal commissions and panels that investigated the Sept. 11 intelligence failures.

A long article that is worth reading.

There was a time when NSA was the king of IT. Today there might be pockets of scary talent in very discrete areas; but by and large things are a mess. There is nothing like working on what you think is a new imitative to solve a unique problem, only to find half-way through development that the people in the next building solved the same problem last year. People wonder why we can’t solve the problem of sharing information between agencies; we can’t even talk to the people down the hall.

There is no sense throwing good money after bad. Listen to Bobby Ray: Scale it WAAAY back to get on base, don’t try to swing for the fence every at-bat (that’s for you P. and J.). That or take a hint from the FBI, scrap it, and start fresh.

Michael Tanji

Michael Tanji

Michael Tanji spent nearly 20 years in the US intelligence community. Trained in both SIGINT and HUMINT disciplines he has worked at the Defense Intelligence Agency, the National Security Agency, and the National Reconnaissance Office. At various points in his career he served as an expert in information warfare, computer network operations, computer forensics, and indications and warning. A veteran of the US Army, Michael has served in both strategic and tactical assignments in the Pacific Theater, the Balkans, and the Middle East.