RealTime IT News

Wanted: Your IT For Secret Agent Program

In this age of heightened security, the CIA is looking to IT professionals to help not only its battle against terrorism but in its fight against information overload.

Recently, the agency's venture funding firm In-Q-Tel went on the offensive appealing to Information Technology "warriors" across corporate America.

"The agency (CIA) was about to die from information overload," said In-Q-Tel president and CEO Gilman Louie. "In the '50s and '60s, separate groups would deal with the information process and at the end of the line there would be offices piecing together the data. So for a long time, the sheer volume of information became the enemy. With IT today, the new technologies can be an asset."

Back in 1999, the CIA helped fund the private independent organization to help it scout out cutting-edge technologies that could serve U.S. national security interests.

Since that time, In-Q-Tel has received some two thousand proposals. The firm's Northern Virginia and Menlo Park, Calif. offices were flooded with at least 400 of those calls since September 11.

In all, In-Q-Tel has funded projects for about 20 firms including IBM , Inktomi , Stratify, and Zaplet.

But as Louie points out, the government is not looking for the next killer app as much as it is looking for hardware and software you could eventually find on the shelf.

Beyond basic security features like laptops that won't work in the wrong hands, the CIA is looking for predictive knowledge management - what is sometimes referred to as "discovery" technology.

In-Q-Tel says it also wants data mining tools, products that bridge the information gap between "unstructured vs. unstructured" database applications and products that mine "multi-modal" information beyond plain old text (think audio/visual or geo-spatial).

"People don't understand that we have to abandon our current way of thinking," Louie told internetnews.com. "A new texture in will hit us hard in the next 3 to 5 years and we have to be ready for it. All it takes is for companies to use a little bit of imagination and ask themselves how the world will be and how will we get there."

With that in mind the U.S. has a financial plan in place to make that happen.

According to a recent report by Chantilly, Va.-based Input, federal spending on information systems and services will increase from $37.1 billion in fiscal year 2002 to $63.3 billion in FY 2007.

"The needs of the federal government are not that much different from a private company, but they need it today, and they're willing to spend money on it," said Louie.

In-Q-Tel currently supports 45 employees and a $30 million annual budget, including its slice of the Homeland security pie.

Continued on page 2 with: "Discovery Mode"