Pentagon Issues Strategy to Better Harness Data

The Pentagon this month debuted an overarching data strategy to move the military toward cloud storage, information-crunching algorithms, and predictive analytics for digital-age warfare.

“Adversaries are also racing to amass data superiority, and whichever side can better leverage data will gain military advantage,” Deputy Defense Secretary David L. Norquist said in the strategy, released Oct. 8. “Our ability to fight and win wars requires that we become world leaders in operationalizing and protecting our data resources at speed and scale.”

Over the past few years, the Pentagon has increasingly looked to bridge the technological divide between America’s fighting forces, which still heavily rely on manual processes for everything from scheduling to inventory, and the private sector. Though work is underway to make information more available across ranks and regions, it is often difficult for troops to access the information and analysis they need to quickly make well-rounded decisions.

The strategy focuses on pulling targeting, tracking, and other data together from across the military services as part of joint, all-domain operations; DOD management data; and business analytics at each level.

It looks to embrace artificial intelligence and ethical data use as it pursues a computer-savvy workforce and sets software standards for the entire military. Its goals include allowing users to locate, retrieve, recognize, and trust data, while working across DOD to use information most effectively. The Pentagon wants to build common operating pictures that are uniform across the military and to protect its data from attack, manipulation, and leaks.

The top-level data strategy comes as the Air Force, which created its own chief data officer in 2017, pursues a data-driven combat overhaul known as the Advanced Battle Management System. ABMS is the Air Force-led piece of the Pentagon’s joint, all-domain command-and-control effort.

Dave Spirk, who was named the Pentagon’s chief data officer in June, will coordinate data efforts across the various military organizations and their own CDOs. Groups across the department—the Office of the Secretary of Defense, the military departments, the Office of the Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff and the Joint Staff, combatant commands, and other agencies and field activities—are tasked with developing data strategy implementation plans with milestones, ways to track progress, and goals.

Spirk will chair a new CDO Council that tackles policy for the military’s biggest data hurdles and advises on DOD research, procurement, budget, and personnel matters.

The Pentagon also recently debuted a personnel strategy that recognizes the role of information technology and “digital native” employees in a successful military.