INFOTECH

JUST IN: Pentagon About to Release New Data Strategy

9/30/2020
By Yasmin Tadjdeh

iStock photo-illustration

A new blueprint to guide the Defense Department’s approach to data could be released within the next 30 days, said the Pentagon’s chief information officer Sept. 30.

“The chief data office has got a strategy done,” said Dana Deasy. “It's going to be released soon.”

The document will outline the department's guiding principles to approaching information and its various goals as it works to become a data-centric organization, he said during a virtual media roundtable hosted by George Washington University’s Project for Media and National Security.

Defense officials have been putting increased attention on better curating the vast amounts of data within the military. Harnessing this data will be key to enabling important technologies the Pentagon is working on such as artificial intelligence.

“I've been asked multiple times by senior leaders inside the department, ‘What do you see to be the biggest challenge to get the flywheel of AI really going across the department?’” Deasy said. “I've always been very quick to say, ‘data.’”

While the Pentagon collects and stores an abundance of information, it isn't always accessible to those who need it, he noted. Additionally, questions remain about how to properly secure and classify it.

Gen. John Hyten, vice chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, has said much of the military's trove is being underutilized.

“There is so much data that’s out there, and much of that data that we gather in the Department of Defense we actually throw away,” he said during remarks at the Joint Artificial Intelligence Symposium and Exposition. “We just ignore it because it’s irrelevant, or the data is in the wrong format."

Hyten said a new approach is needed.

In June, officials named Dave Spirk as the Pentagon's chief data officer. The CDO position is nestled within the office of the chief information officer. The 2020 National Defense Authorization Act shifted the CDO’s functions from the chief management officer to the chief information officer.


“I was ... very excited when I saw that Congress said, ‘We really want to see chief data officers established across government,’” Deasy said. “I really felt we needed to do that inside the Department of Defense, because the whole purpose of a chief data officer is to step back and say, 'OK, given that this is our historical past, what do we want to start doing differently with data going forward?’”

Spirk — formerly Special Operations Command’s chief data officer — has been on a "listening tour" to meet with stakeholders and solicit input before the final version of the Pentagon’s new data strategy is released, Deasy noted.

“When he went out to start the listening tour, I said, ‘You should use that listening tour to help inform the work that had already been drafted for the data strategy to see if we were getting it right,’” Deasy said.

Common themes in those discussions were about how to ensure data is visible and accessible, while also keeping in mind the necessary classification and authority levels. Stakeholders also were interested in how to make data more understandable, linked and trustworthy, Deasy added.

Topics: Defense Department

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