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Congress Backs Intell Community Tech Investment, Data Sharing via Fiscal 2022 IC Policy Bill

Members of Congress want the intelligence community to invest more in commercial technology platforms and share data with the Defense Department as part of the Fiscal Year 2022 Intelligence Authorization Act.

On Sept. 30, the House Intelligence Committee passed its version of the bill that authorizes IC spending levels 0.5 percent above the White House’s budget request.

Among the priorities identified in the bill is a provision that mandates the President to establish uniform measures to provide comprehensive treatment and care for victims of anomalous health incidents. 

The bill also advances the National Counterproliferation Center’s power to address foreign biological threats and deliver warnings on emerging biological challenges to gear up for the next possible pandemic. 

Under the legislation, the FBI’s counterintelligence division must execute security evaluations of Chinese products and services before the agency procures the items. 

“One of our committee’s principal responsibilities is crafting an Intelligence Authorization Act that keeps our country secure while ensuring the Congress’ ability to conduct vigorous oversight, protect civil liberties, care for our personnel, and provide for the resources intelligence professionals need to safeguard national security,” said House Intelligence Committee Chairman Adam Schiff, D-Calif.

A significant item in the bill supports forming a National Space Intelligence Center that will function as a standalone agency independent of the U.S. Air Force National Air and Space Intelligence Center. 

The USSF was initially eyeing to kick off the operations in NSIC by 2022 but a provision from the 2020 Defense Appropriations Act under Section 8041 restrained the Department of Defense to establish new field operating agencies if these will not help reduce personnel and budget needs. 

The IAA offered an exception to this provision and allowed NSIC to proceed. 

Furthermore, the intelligence bill will enable the budget allocation to acquire commercial capabilities through the NRO, New York Times reported Sept. 27

But here’s the catch: leaders from intelligence agencies are still reluctant to utilize lesser but cheaper intelligence products for collection and analysis, according to Mac Thornberry, former chairman of the House Armed Services Committee and current member of the HawkEye advisory board. 

While commercial images provide a better vision of what’s happening, “there is still a cultural discomfort with relying on something that you don’t have control over, or as much control, as you do over your government systems,” he said. 

Thornberry underscored that government leaders should keep in mind that a commercial satellite worth $10 million is not meant to compete with a $1 billion government satellite. 

Instead, the cheaper satellite could be viewed as backup support to assist the government satellites for improved missions. 

As adversaries continue to threaten the nation’s space capabilities, Pete Muend, director of commercial services program at NRO, said that “a diversified architecture made up of national and commercial satellites operating across multiple orbits is really essential to our national security.”

Despite some hesitations, the government is still leveraging the services of the commercial sector following their contract awards to some businesses. 

The National Geospatial-Intelligence Agency gave HawkEye 360 a five-year, $10 million contract to detect and map radio frequencies over large geographic areas. 

CGI received Tuesday a five-year, $100 million task order to modernize a transition database in support of the analysis and evaluation of foundational military intelligence at the Defense Intelligence Agency.

NRO exercised the second $300 million option under an agreement with Maxar Technologies for continuous access to commercial satellite imagery to assist the agency’s mission. 

On Oct. 14, Potomac Officers Club will host its 7th Annual Intel Summit to offer the GovCon community insights and perspectives on how intelligence agencies keep up with the evolution of technologies.

Join the 2021 Intelligence Summit from 8 a.m. to 1:30 p.m. EST. Register here.

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