Defense is one of the five domains composing the Information Sharing Environment (ISE), each with an Intelligence Community component. The federal level partner with the lead coordinating role for this community is the Department of Defense (DoD).

Department of Defense (DoD)

Seal of Department of Defense for the United States of AmericaThe Department of Defense views information sharing as a key mission enabler and, as a result, plays a key role in assisting the ISE in understanding international military vulnerabilities.

In its 2009 Information Sharing Implementation Plan, the DoD describes “Intelligence and information sharing” as “a vital component of national security,” and producing “quickly available” and “reliable information analysis” as an “enduring challenge” for the department.

To meet that challenge, each of the four branches of the armed forces within the DoD-the Army, Navy, Air, and Marine Corps-has its own intelligence element that contributes to the ISE, as well as to the DoD’s internal information sharing efforts as an “enduring challenge” for the department.

The Office of the Under Secretary of Defense for Intelligence (OUSDI), in addition to overseeing the four intelligence components of the combatant commands, oversees the Defense Intelligence Agency (DIA), the National Security Agency (NSA), the National Geospatial-Intelligence Agency (NGA), and the National Reconnaissance Office (NRO) to provide the ISE with critical information to understand international military vulnerabilities.

Under Secretary of Defense for Intelligence is “dual-hatted” as Director of Defense Intelligence within the Office of the Director of National Intelligence (ODNI) and serves as principle advisor regarding defense intelligence matters. The agreement establishing this relationship “provide[s] a framework to ensure a seamless integration of critical intelligence efforts.”

The Mission Partner Environment (MPE)

The Department of Defense established the Mission Partner Environment (MPE) to address the information sharing problems plaguing the United States’ and the International Security Assistance Force (ISAF) during the 13 years of combat operations in Afghanistan. MPE solves information sharing and data access problems in two ways.

First, MPE Tier 1 is an enduring, federated information sharing network that allows the United States to share electronic information with specified mission partners (bilaterally or with communities of interest) to support combat and command engagements and planning.

Second, MPE Tier 0 is an episodic, or mission focused, federated network that can be created “on the fly” to facilitate electronic information sharing with unanticipated mission partners in response to a specific event, such as an emerging threat, or situation, such as support to a humanitarian assistance/disaster response mission. All that is required for any mission partner to access an established MPE is a formal agreement signed by the mission partner accepting specific operating standards for entering, utilizing, and exiting the MPE known as the Joining, Membership, and Exiting Instructions (JMEI). The specific standards governing the use of an MPE are established by the provider of the MPE Core, which can be any mission partner, but is likely the partner with the greatest equity in the MPE. What’s more, MPE does not require any infrastructure investments to operate-mission partners simply utilize existing Information technology infrastructure to connect onto the MPE.

The MPE concept revolutionizes information sharing between the DoD and its mission partners, as it offers a truly scalable, spontaneous apparatus for sharing unclassified or classified information (up to SECRET Collateral) with partners ranging in size and capability from allied nation states to local law enforcement.

As a matter of practice, the DoD conducts most, if not all, of its operations on the Secret Internet Protocol Router Network (SIPRNet). As a result, the DoD has learned from operations in Afghanistan; operations in support of relief efforts in the aftermath of the Haiti earthquake; and operations elsewhere, that its use of the SIPRNet and its mission partners use of stovepiped information sharing capabilities and practices does not facilitate efficient and effective information sharing which is required to achieve unified action. The Mission Partner Environment was thus born out of operational necessity and expediency to conduct operations utilizing a common mission environment in order to more effectively share information with a wide array of mission partners.

The MPE is defined as an operating environment which enables command and control (C2) for the planning, preparation, and execution of operational activities utilizing existing capabilities (network infrastructure, systems, etc.) in a single security domain (SECRET/Releasable or UNCLASSIFIED) using a common language. From a technical perspective, a MPE leverages a federated network concept supporting the connection of multiple independently owned and operated networks/systems with applications and tools to enable mission partner information sharing in a common environment. This environment, where mission partners are resourced independently, is established according to mission partner agreement of Joining, Membership, and Exiting Instructions (JMEI). Ultimately, a MPE allows the DoD to move operations off of the SIPRNet, therefore eliminating network limiting factors when conducting mission partner operations, and on to a common/federated mission network.

The DoD decomposes the mission partner information sharing problem into two distinct solution sets that leverage the unique capabilities of each. First, is an enduring/persistent information sharing environment that allows the DoD to share information with known/specified mission partners (bilaterally or multilaterally) in support of Combatant Command engagements and planning. Second, is an episodic/temporal mission focused environment that can be established “on the fly” to facilitate information sharing with unanticipated mission partners in response to a specific event (exercise or contingency). Within this environment, there are no guards restricting data and information flows. All mission partners share information equally for planning, preparation, situational awareness, and execution of missions. Multiple episodic MPEs can and will exist simultaneously.

The MPE transforms information sharing between the DoD and its mission partners as it offers a common, truly scalable, and agile means for sharing information with all mission partners-from our U.S. allies to the private sector.