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DOD Aims to Transform Itself Into a Data-Centric Organization

May 10, 2021 | BY David Vergun , DOD News

Deputy Defense Secretary Kathleen H. Hicks signed a memorandum to transform the Defense Department into a data-centric organization with the goal, she said, of "improving warfighting performance and creating decision advantage at all echelons from the battlespace to the board room."

The May 5, "Creating Data Advantage," memo specifies the department's first-ever "data decrees" that are designed to "generate transformative proficiency across the DOD data strategy's focus areas of Joint All-Domain Operations, senior leader decision support and business analytics."

A soldier works on a network.
Network Connection
Army Spc. Jason Farrison, a multichannel transmission systems operator with the 2nd General Support Aviation Battalion, 501st Aviation Regiment, 1st Armored Division Combat Aviation Brigade, uses a category five cable to establish a network connection at Himsel Army Airfield, Camp Atterbury Joint Maneuver Training Center, Ind., April 29, 2021.
Photo By: Army Staff Sgt. Latasha Price
VIRIN: 210428-A-ST150-430

The goals of the data decrees, she said, are:

  • Maximizing data sharing and rights for data use.
  • Publishing data assets in the DOD federated data catalog along with common interface specifications.
  • Using automated data interfaces that are externally accessible and machine-readable and ensuring interfaces use industry-standard, non-proprietary, preferably open-source, technologies, protocols and payloads.
  • Storing data in a manner that is platform and environment-agnostic, uncoupled from hardware or software dependencies.
  • Implementing industry best practices for secure authentication, access management, encryption, monitoring and protection of data at rest, in transit and in use.

"Data is essential to preserving military advantage, supporting our people and serving the public," Hicks stated in the memo.

Soldiers work on laptops under a tent outdoors.
Online Exercise
Army Spc. Javon Courtney, a Nodal Network System operator-maintainer with the 73rd Signal Company, Sustainment Troops Battalion, 25th Infantry Division Sustainment Brigade, 25th Infantry Division, ensures that his equipment is online during a training exercise on Schofield Barracks, Hawaii, April 22, 2021.
Photo By: Army Spc. Michael Bradle
VIRIN: 210422-A-RN631-1003

"Leaders at all levels have a responsibility to manage, understand and responsibly share and protect data in support of our shared mission. Data enables capabilities such as [artificial intelligence], machine learning and various autonomous technologies. It is critical to warfighters seeking advantage on the battlefield, and it is critical to decision makers," she said.

In order to accelerate the department's data transformation, the memorandum empowers the DOD chief data officer to provide leadership and issue guidance regarding the DOD's data ecosystem — people, technology and culture — data sharing, data architecture, data lifecycle management and a data ready workforce. It also highlights the importance of dedicated data leaders empowered with the resources and authority to shape key investment decisions and build the data workforce.

U.S. Air Force Tech. Sgt. Kaci Stephens, 86th Medical Support Squadron medical information services flight client support noncommissioned officer in charge, migrates medical information to a new network within the dental clinic at Ramstein Air Base, Germany, April 6, 2021.
86th MDSS Airmen prescribe new network
U.S. Air Force Tech. Sgt. Kaci Stephens, 86th Medical Support Squadron medical information services flight client support noncommissioned officer in charge, migrates medical information to a new network within the dental clinic at Ramstein Air Base, Germany, April 6, 2021. The flight must work with each device individually, totaling more than 750, during the network migration from the Air Force Network to the Medical Community of Interest. (U.S. Air Force photo by Tech. Sgt. Jocelyn A. Ford)
Photo By: Tech. Sgt. Jocelyn Ford
VIRIN: 210406-F-QS178-1021

The memo lays out an aggressive timeline for assessing and developing courses of action to consolidate data efforts in the Office of the Secretary of Defense, reviewing data management and analytic platforms to find opportunities to gain efficiencies, scaling proven capabilities across the enterprise and looking for additional help from current members of the Defense Department's workforce who can join this transformative effort.