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Pentagon releases long-awaited data strategy

The Defense Department has released its first enterprise-wide data strategy.

The 14-page document released Oct. 8 outlines the basis for what will become the DOD's data commandments to apply to "the entire Department of Defense, and its data, on whichever systems that information resides."

DOD outlined seven principles, which include general guidelines on data ethics, collection, artificial intelligence training, and access. There are also seven goals with 33 objectives, ranging from making data more visible by developing metadata standards for location and access methods, to making it more secure through data stewards who will assess data classification and test security compliance.

A defense official said a major aim of the strategy and implementation to come will be to map the Defense Department's entire data enterprise, including every data professional, which would fold under the DOD's chief data officer.

"One of the things that we're going to do is establish almost what you could call a list of data commandments that we hope to publish as a complementary decision-type memorandum," with other documents that will mandate certain behaviors and proficiency, the defense official told reporters in a background briefing ahead of the strategy's release.

"But we need to identify what even is important data in the department. We have so much data that if we tried to save and carry it at all, it would be a fool's errand and we need to understand which parts are the most important for our business units."

Governance and organization are also highlighted throughout the strategy. The chief data officer – a post currently occupied by David Spirk -- sits under DOD's CIO, who oversees the implementation and enforcement of data priorities.

Additionally, the CDO will chair a data council with representation from the military departments, combatant commands, and defense components and field activities. That council would be the "primary venue for collaboration among data officers from across the Department," the document states.

But organization and benchmarks are still in the early stages of development, the official said, adding that DOD is currently working to develop "key performance indicators" that would be used to track the strategy's implementation and success.

Military departments are already working on their own norms and standards but the strategy will help "codify how all of this integrates properly and ensure that if we see something moving off track that we have those KPIs to recognize early and steer it back in," the official said.

The DOD's data strategy comes as the Pentagon and military services work to integrate data sharing from sensors to weapons as part of a joint all domain operating warfighting concept and push for interoperable communications and data sharing.

Gen. John Hyten, the vice chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff announced plans to release joint data requirements in September and said that DOD needs to meet its data goals by 2030, DefenseNews reported.

DOD's biggest challenge to implementing such broad strategies is organizing the capabilities and people it already has to achieve its data goals in 10 years, the defense official said.

"I would hope it doesn't take us 10 years to establish all of this," the official said. "I think you'll see us accelerate that timeline," which includes strategically sunsetting legacy systems.

This article first appeared on FCW, a Defense Systems partner site. 

About the Author

Lauren C. Williams is senior editor for FCW and Defense Systems, covering defense and cybersecurity.

Prior to joining FCW, Williams was the tech reporter for ThinkProgress, where she covered everything from internet culture to national security issues. In past positions, Williams covered health care, politics and crime for various publications, including The Seattle Times.

Williams graduated with a master's in journalism from the University of Maryland, College Park and a bachelor's in dietetics from the University of Delaware. She can be contacted at [email protected], or follow her on Twitter @lalaurenista.

Click here for previous articles by Wiliams.


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