On October 22, 2020, the Office of Transformation and Innovation, within the Office of the Director of National Intelligence (ODNI), issued a request for information (RFI) to private sector and non-governmental organizations, seeking input on technology, research, and ideas that would support broad Intelligence Community (IC) strategic initiatives. This RFI confirms the government’s interest in technology and it presents both opportunity (in the form of possible partnerships) and peril (in the form of regulatory activity like export controls for foundational and emerging technologies). ODNI has been playing a role in federal procurement policy and activity on information and communications technology (ICT). There is a very short deadline of November 5, 2020, to participate.
The RFI was issued as a part of ODNI’s Intelligence, Science and Technology Partnership (In-STeP) program, which is designed to give the IC a deeper understanding of technologies and business practices that are being developed in the private sector. In-STeP is one of several initiatives that the ODNI uses to interact with the private sector. Others include the Public-Private Talent Exchange Program (PPTE) that serves as a talent exchange program for intelligence professionals and private sector companies; and the Public-Private Analytic Exchange Program (AEP), where the ODNI and the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) publish unclassified analytic products to private industries and the general public.
The current RFI is intended to support the development and advancement of a wide range of topics of interest to the IC: from artificial intelligence, machine learning and autonomous systems, to human capital, horizon scanning, and innovation management. As we have written, AI is of interest to the national security community.
Additionally, ODNI is seeking input and proposals to further six specific IC strategic initiatives:
- Augmenting Intelligence Using Machines – Increased insight, knowledge, and speed through artificial intelligence, automation, and augmentation.
- Right, Trusted, Agile Workforce – A trusted workforce with the right expertise that moves easily within the IC and to and from the private sector.
- Acquisition Agility – Flexible, risk-managed delivery of innovative capabilities, data, and expertise at mission pace.
- Modern Data Management and Infrastructure – IC data discoverable, accessible and usable, through secure, modernized systems and standards.
- Private Sector Partnerships – Effective leveraging of the collective capabilities, expertise and insights of the private sector.
- Comprehensive Cyber Posture – A nation more secure from cyber threats and the U.S. positioned for strategic and tactical response.
Structured opportunities to engage with ODNI and the IC, like that presented in this RFI, can enable companies and industry sectors to gain insight into how agencies are planning to approach emergent technology, operational priorities, and policy issues as part of their strategic planning cycle. Such insight can open research and development avenues for future marketing or contracting opportunities and give the industry the ability to educate the government on challenges, obstacles, opportunities, and controls that affect drive innovation in a particular field. Giving government officials a baseline understanding about complex technological fields can be an effective way for the industry to inform policy, which can lead to a more innovation-friendly policy or regulatory environment.
Organizations interested in responding to the RFI can complete a Partner Capabilities Form and submit it to the ODNI. If selected, the In-STeP program will schedule meetings where respondents may present and discuss their submission with IC members and certain cleared contractors. All meetings will take place in Washington DC, and respondents may request any contractor attending such meetings to complete and sign a non-disclosure agreement. The In-STeP program will provide submissions to the other 16 IC elements, who can work with the In-STeP program to review the capability descriptions and request meetings with respondents. Submissions can be submitted in both classified and unclassified forms, and meetings, to the extent requested by the In-STeP program, can include both classified and proprietary information. If desired, respondents may request to retain materials and slide-decks presented in meetings with IC partners, so no documentation will be left with the government.