The Defense Intelligence Agency (DIA) is doing a major upgrade of the Federal government’s 30-year-old top-secret network, with cloud services playing a major factor in the modernization effort, a senior DIA official said on March 23.

Johanna Leasiolagi, a senior tech advisor at DIA, said that delivering a modernized architecture of the Joint Worldwide Intelligence Communication System (JWICS) is a major priority for 2023. And she said that multi-award cloud contracts – like the Department of Defense’s (DoD) Joint Warfighting Cloud Capability (JWCC) contracts and the intelligence community’s (IC) Commercial Cloud Enterprise (C2E) contracts – will push that effort forward.

The JWICS network – initiated in the 1990s – originally facilitated video meetings between DIA headquarters and the Pentagon. But the network has expanded to handle email and other forms of data, and holds the DoD’s and the IC’s most confidential intelligence information.

Today the network consists of hundreds of thousands of users, and the network must evolve to keep up with the speed of the national intelligence mission.

“We are working on expanding the highway that will deliver higher capacity and bandwidth to our customers as we enter cloud modernization as well with the delivery of JWCC and the C2E contracts,” Leasiolagi said on day three of FNN’s DoD Cloud Exchange 2023.

With JWCC and C2E in place, DIA has multiple cloud service providers it can order from across both its defense and intelligence missions. DIA has been working with its program offices to “find efficiencies” and identify the best locations for establishing various cloud access points and services, Leasiolagi said.

She added that jointly the IC and the DoD are looking to deliver higher throughput and better services to its customer on both sides.

“As we start investing in better technology like machine learning and tactical communications, and we start trying to integrate how the battlespace commanders work together with the intelligence community, they need applications that take higher bandwidth and are integrated across the board,” Leasiolagi said.

In addition, Leasiolagi explained that another benefit to modernizing JWICS with cloud computing capabilities is the ability to move and integrate systems jointly – between the DoD and the IC – to “work smarter, together.”

DoD and intelligence agencies face growing demand to share data across different systems, and  Leasiolagi explained that cloud-based infrastructure helps the DoD and the IC move away from stove-piped systems.

“What the cloud systems allow us to do is to be able to move into more smart locations and move those applications that can work faster and better, without having to worry about having so many different data centers and having to spend so many resources on an aging architecture,” she said. “It helps us to integrate our systems and work smartly together.”

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Lisbeth Perez
Lisbeth Perez
Lisbeth Perez is a MeriTalk Senior Technology Reporter covering the intersection of government and technology.