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DOD 'data commandments' are in the works

A set of 'data commandments' and continuous education for personnel may be the key to making the concept of Joint All Domain Command and Control a reality, according to the Defense Department’s data chief.

“Our future is in recognizing a commercial industry that accepts what we’re calling loosely the data commandments we’re drafting and hope to be taking to our senior-most leaders,” David Spirk, the Defense Department’s chief data officer, said during the National Defense Industry Association’s Oct. 28 Joint All Domain Command and Control (JADC2) event.

Those commandments would have to be taken into account when acquiring new commercial solutions and when incorporating legacy systems, he said. While DOD has made modernization strides, “bolted-on” fixes will be needed as DOD settles on the systems it needs to support seamless data transfer for JADC2, a Joint Force effort to improve coordination and information sharing.

“Let’s be realistic about expectations and timelines,” Spirk said. “I do think we have a lot to learn, to overcome. We still have legacy systems that were not designed to be machine extensible. We have legacy systems that potentially don’t comport to an open data standards architecture -- that is required to move forward.”

Spirk said all wasn’t lost with the legacy systems and that there was an opportunity to “work those data flows to make them testable and repeatable.” But adhering to data commandments moving forward -- both inside DOD and among industry partners -- will be necessary.

Spirk’s comments come after the Defense Department released its data strategy Oct. 8, calling for a significant shift in the way the organization handles data from personnel to systems.

Spirk, who is the former data chief for U.S. Special Operations Command, also stressed the need for more data workers to do the “grunt work” of data engineering that makes data available and easy to use. And doing that means more investment in training and education.

“We should be creating systems and opportunities for people to self-help,” Spirk said. “How do we make some of these massive, online, open courses available and then incentivize our department civilians and uniform members to actually go take the time, when they’re not at their work station, to improve, to get these certificates?”

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.

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