Commercial Cloud Is the Tip of the Iceberg for Private-Public Partnership in IC, Says CIA’s La’Naia Jones

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Around 2010, when the first cloud migration wave was really taking hold in the federal government, the intelligence community was hesitant to fall in line. But what began tentatively has blossomed into a fruitful, near-decade-and-a-half collaboration between commercial providers and the Central Intelligence Agency, said Chief Information Officer La’Naia Jones.

Jones, who also serves as the CIA’s Director of the Information Technology Enterprise, addressed a government contracting industry audience at the Potomac Officers Club’s Workloads at the Tactical Edge Forum on Thursday. She professed that she considers the private sector “like a second family” and sees herself in its members.

Browse the Potomac Officers Club’s roster of upcoming events here!

She went on to say she views the cross-industry establishment of a “commercial cloud enterprise” as “a gateway for other edge solutions” — those being technologies used in remote and “high-latency/low-bandwidth” environments. Communications challenges are much different in the Pacific region — which currently has the attention of the defense community — than in the European region, she said.

Cybersecurity is going to be a big focus for the CIA in the year ahead, according to Jones. This comes with a respect for “the sanctity of software,” as deficiencies and overlooked problem areas in offerings by companies like SolarWinds have in the past left the door open for security breaches or cyber attacks. Adversaries are getting keener and more cunning and no industry — be it finance, healthcare or government — has been left unscathed.

Jones believes in technology as a “disruptor, enabler and force multiplier” and foresees artificial intelligence playing an increasingly important role in the CIA and broader IC over the next few years. She says the agency will “automate when and where possible,” though she is a proponent of there always being a human on the loop, providing oversight and ultimately making the final call.

“We’re [using AI] to meet the mission, not become the Matrix, like people sometimes think,” Jones quipped.

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