National security analytics is no child's game

February 5, 2010: 10:00 AM ET

Building technology to suss out bad guys is the easy part. Getting agencies to collaborate? Not so much.

By Stephen Brobst, chief technology officer, Teradata Corporation

Brobst: Don't blame volume of data for security lapses. Photo: Teradata.

When President Barack Obama or then-national security advisor Condoleezza Rice observed that intelligence agencies failed "to connect the dots" for either the botched Christmas bombing of Northwest flight 253 or the tragedy of 9/11, they evoked a simple children's game of drawing lines on a page to complete a picture. Connecting dots about known terrorists' plans, then, sounds simple.

Let's be realistic. It's not.

The biggest challenge our security organizations face involve overcoming cultural clashes and power struggles within and between them – and only strong leadership in Washington can address those issues.  There also are complex technology issues involved in deploying a comprehensive, responsive, and collaborative analytics system across multiple agencies.  This may be the easier problem to address.

After all, the commercial sector has been successfully collaborating across technology organizations (think suppliers and purchasers or merged companies) for years.  Intelligence agencies are awash in data from various legacy systems running multiple databases that are seen as barriers to implementing a practical, centralized repository of data. More

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