The Defense Counterintelligence and Security Agency is making progress in pinpointing big data analytics tools to apply to internal and publicly available sources in support of its critical spy-thwarting and personnel security missions.
But according to DCSA Director Bill Lietzau, most of this work is currently in pilot and experimentation phases — and the analytics capabilities the agency aims to invest in long term have largely not yet been solidified.
“We’re still in the kind of investigation stage of how we can best use those tools,” he said Tuesday during a virtual event hosted by the Intelligence and National Security Alliance.
Lietzau, a former Marine colonel, was tapped to serve as DCSA chief in early 2020. The agency was formed into its current state in 2019 to ultimately ensure that the Defense Department’s security clearance investigations and adjudications are conducted safely, efficiently and reliably.
DOD’s data strategy published in September 2020, sets the department’s vision to operate as “a data-centric organization” that “uses data at speed and scale” for mission advantage and increased efficiency.
Currently, DCSA has pilot programs that involve developing capabilities to “scrape from large data points of information that were previously unavailable” to it, and to use big data analytics to identify the usefulness of that information, according to Lietzau.
At this point, though, he said the agency is not leveraging big data analytics broadly to look at all the adjudications its officials complete over a period of time, or to identify good indicators for those that deserve more scrutiny, in ways they wouldn’t have done in the past.
“We’ve got test programs that have looked at that,” Lietzau said, noting that there’s also been a bit of recent engagement with corporations to try “different products out there to see their ability to pull data that might be useful” to the agency.
“We are working through all of that right now, but I can’t say that we’ve arrived at specific tools that we’ve decided are worth investing in and changing our policies [for] in a way that we can use them on a regular basis,” he added.
Another data-aligned focus for DCSA this year involves reducing the time it takes to review companies that apply to receive government facility clearances.
On the personnel security side, the agency has invested in systems and implemented tools over the last year that has enabled it to now collect data and capture metrics — at times down to the number of days a person’s clearance review process might take.
However, “I don’t have that capability right now on the industrial security side” for companies vying for facility clearances, Lietzau said.
One of the reasons for this, in his view, is that the agency’s IT systems for industrial security “aren’t as modern as they should” be.
“But we’re working through all that right now,” Lietzau said.