data analytics (Sergey Nivens/

AI & Analytics

DOD eyes automation to improve data quality, business processes

The Defense Department expects that better use of data analytics will help it improve its business operations and decision-making, optimize the workforce and support digital transformation as it moves on from legacy systems.

Gregory Little, DOD's deputy comptroller for enterprise data and business performance, said his organization partners with various DOD components like the Joint Artificial Intelligence Center, the Defense Innovation Unit and the Office of the CIO on on efforts that include rationalizing systems, improving acquisition techniques, getting better data and tying strategy to resources, performance outcomes and risk.

"We think about modernization, how we simplify processes, improve data quality and automate," Little said during an April 6 virtual FedInsider event hosted by Breaking Defense.

But Little's priorities are workforce training, leveraging robotic process automation to streamline workflows and using analytics for historical budget analysis and predictive modeling.

"This administration is very focused on building a workforce that has the right skill sets for the future and innovation," he said.

"People have been really excited about the new technology and how it will free up time to do next-level work," Little said, adding that, this year, 43 bots helped save the Pentagon's business analysts 30,000 hours.

Little said another focus is helping DOD policy-makers by developing tools for “making sense of PDFs." His office is working on an application that links relevant policy documents together so policy-makers can find duplicative policies and see the potential impact a change would have from one policy to another.

Artificial and machine learning techniques have been deployed to search for dormant contract obligations and alert the relevant users. If a contract isn't needed anymore, those funds can be deallocated and then reallocated to a higher priority item; about $4 billion have been readjusted as a result, according to Little.

But the ultimate goal is to use financial data more strategically and beyond transaction process work, such as reducing the DOD's number of legacy systems.

"How do we get rid of legacy systems?" Little said. "Those legacy systems can be a drain in terms of funding, but they also can really impede progress" as more modern technologies and processes are adopted.

This article was first posted to FCW, a sibling site to Defense Systems.

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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