WASHINGTON — Deputy Secretary of Defense Kathleen Hicks released a new plan to manage and learn from the department’s vast data stores that starts with a simple decree: Any DoD data is a resource for the whole agency.
In other words, components must view data as a strategic asset and avoid trapping their valuable information in their own siloed storage systems. Her directive announced May 10 is another signal from the department that it recognizes that harnessing data for decision-making is the center of its future war-fighting concept to connect sensors and shooters across domains and services.
Hicks ordered components to prioritize sharing data, to store it following common standards so it’s widely useable, and to protect it using sound security methods.
Her memo, signed earlier this month, listed five decrees to ensure that data is ready for Joint All-Domain Command and Control:
1. “Maximize data sharing and rights for data use: all DoD data is an enterprise resource.
2. “Publish data assets in the DoD federated data catalog along with common interface specifications.
3. “Use automated data interfaces that are externally accessible and machine-readable; ensure interfaces use industry-standard, non-proprietary, preferably open-source, technologies, protocols, and payloads.
4. “Store data in a manner that is platform and environment-agnostic, uncoupled from hardware or software dependencies.
5. “Implement industry best practices for secure authentication, access management, encryption, monitoring, and protection of data at rest, in transit, and in use.”
The memo empowered Pentagon Chief Data Officer Dave Spirk as the lead policymaker for the agency’s data. Spirk, the CDO of Special Operations Command before moving to the Pentagon in June last year, helped write the Pentagon’s data strategy, focused on using data for enable joint war-fighting. That department released the strategy last year.
“The DoD CDO shall have access to all DoD data; facilitate the adjudication of data-sharing and/or access disputes; and oversee implementation of the DoD Data Strategy,” Hicks wrote.
To improve data management for joint all-domain operations, the memo directed the DoD CDO to work with the Joint Staff, Joint Artificial Intelligence Center and relevant cross-functional teams, such as the JADC2-CFT or Algorithmic Warfare-CFT to identify and eliminate gaps in system interoperability in order to “create joint war-fighting advantage through data-driven mission command across the competition continuum.” The CDO must deliver an action plan by July 1 to Hicks that includes milestones to address gaps.
The memo also established the department’s Advanced Analytics (Advana) platform as the “single enterprise authoritative data management and analytics” platform for senior leadership in the Pentagon in order to ensure “objective and informed decision-making.” The CDO and component CDO must approve any other data management and analytics platforms to ensure the new system has open standards, the memo stated.
Hicks directed the CDO to assess the viability of making that role independent from the DoD’s office of the chief information officer, and whether the CDO should also become the principal staff assistant for enterprise data management and analytic issues. The CDO reports to the CIO at the Pentagon and elevating the job in the reporting structuring would make the CDO role more prominent in the highly bureaucratic department. The final assessment is due July 1.
That is also the deadline for the CDO and the Defense Digital Service to identify near-term options to accelerate adoption of enterprise data management and analytics tools. And by Sept. 1, the office must review DoD data management and analysis platforms to “identify opportunities for greater integration, consolidation, and replacement” of platforms that don’t adhere to open-standard architectures.
Finally, the CDO, undersecretary of defense for personnel and readiness, and the Defense Digital Service must identify employees with data management and analytics expertise in the department along with skills gaps, and that group will explore new private-public partnerships to solve the problems.
“Data is essential to preserving military advantage, supporting our people, and serving the public. Leaders at all levels have a responsibility to manage, understand, and responsibly share and protect data in support of our shared mission,” Hicks wrote.
Andrew Eversden covers all things defense technology for C4ISRNET. He previously reported on federal IT and cybersecurity for Federal Times and Fifth Domain, and worked as a congressional reporting fellow for the Texas Tribune. He was also a Washington intern for the Durango Herald. Andrew is a graduate of American University.