The Department of Defense puts data and artificial intelligence at the center of all its areas, from financial operations and audits to frontline battlefield environments.
Speaking Wednesday at a virtual roundtable hosted by the George Washington University Project on Media and National Security, David Spirk, the Defense Department’s chief data officer, said the Department of Defense is putting real-time data in the hands of the Pentagon’s top leadership to make critical decisions more quickly and stay above threats. Globalism.
Spirk said the department’s real-time data analytics capabilities are already changing how senior leadership makes decisions about staff and preparedness.
Some DoD decision-making forums, led by Deputy Secretary of Defense Kathleen Hicks, including the Defense Workforce Council, are now pulling live data in place of PowerPoint slides during meetings to inform personnel and readiness decisions.
“If you don’t organize your data, and if you can’t create repeatable, testable, and reliable data workflows from the tactical edge all the way to the most decision-making board activities, you will be left behind,” Speark said. “We’ve seen this in the industry, and it’s not really different in strategic competition with other nation-states that have the ability to harness their data, and have access to the computing required to do something with it.”
Meanwhile, the Pentagon is looking to better align its work around data management and artificial intelligence by rearranging its top leaders.
Hicks, in a memo last month, ordered the creation of a Chief Digital and Artificial Intelligence Officer (CDAO) position to oversee the CDO, the Joint Artificial Intelligence Center and the Defense Digital Service.
Spirk said the upcoming reorganization, based on a recent phone call with Hicks, will help ensure that the Department of Defense “doubles back on the data-driven future of the department, and ensures this is not a passing fad.”
“What it will allow is that stronger alignment to really speed into the future in a more formal way. I don’t consider it bureaucratic. If anything, I think creating this activity breaks down some of the bureaucratic walls, because it puts us all under one vision that CDAO can come in and lead Spirk said.
Meanwhile, the Department of Defense is making progress in its month-long effort to review data and AI capabilities for all of its 11 combat orders as part of the AI and Data Acceleration initiative.
Speark said Deputy CDO Clark Cooley and JAIC officials have traveled to eight of the 11 orders so far. The ninth visit will take place on Thursday when the team will meet with e-command.
“Cyber is one of the most important areas because it is one of the areas that is clearly leveraging data organically,” Spirk said.
Spirk also holds monthly meetings with CDOs on those combat commands as part of the Joint Combat Forum.
The Department of Defense’s ADA initiative looks to take the division’s AI capabilities beyond the beta phase and develop practical uses of data and AI in combat commands around the world.
We will not only build a data governance mechanism. “We’ll focus on results, we’ll focus on things we can achieve,” Speark said.
As part of the ADA initiative, the Department of Defense is looking to catalog the data feeds that leaders currently use to make decisions, and to determine how AI algorithms can help improve their decision-making ability.
Meanwhile, the Pentagon relies on several major data analysis platforms to enable its top officials to make real-time decisions.
DoD and Booz Allen Hamilton launched Advana in 2019 to simplify more than 3,000 business systems and provide data analytics capabilities in everything from finance and contracting to logistics and preparedness.
Spirk said the Advana platform originated from the Department of Defense’s Comptroller’s Office, and has improved the department’s ability to conduct audits. He said the platform has more than 45,000 active users.
However, the Advana platform goes beyond just analyzing financial numbers. In recent exercises, Spirk said, the Department of Defense used readiness data on the Advana platform to develop decision options in minutes that previously took hours or even days.
Spirk said he sees Advana not just as business analytics, but as a hub for the Department of Defense to create the first unified data catalog.
Gathering the department’s data together on a single analytics platform allows key Department of Defense aides, from the undersecretary of defense for personnel and readiness, to the undersecretary of defense for intelligence and security, to use that data to shape strategic decisions, Speark said.
“We don’t have to have all the resident data, we just need to understand what data we have, where it is, and some of the key features associated with it,” he said.
Spirk said the Department of Defense, through Project Maven, is building the department’s AI capabilities and operations planning activities. However, Google withdrew from the project in 2018 after it pledged to develop AI applications related to weapons or surveillance.
However, these repercussions have not diminished the project’s role within the Department of Defense.
Speark said the US Northern Command and the Army’s 18th Airborne Corps are currently using the same data management analytics capabilities developed by Project Maven to understand battlefield environments faster and make “targeting decisions that will translate naturally into the real world.”
To ensure the United States remains ahead of the global arms race, Speark said the Department of Defense will need to continue to rely on private industry for support.
“I don’t necessarily see China as having an advantage over us, but I understand that if we don’t continue to partner with our commercial sector, our major cloud vendors, and view them as national security treasures…if we don’t continue to grow those partnerships and take advantage of those,” Speark said. capabilities, then I think we’ll find ourselves falling behind.”
Meanwhile, the Department of Defense and the Department of Veterans Affairs are finalizing a joint data and analytics strategy that will best serve military personnel as they transition out of active duty.
While the strategy is still pending, Spirk said that both DoD and VA are laying the groundwork for interoperable data management and analysis platforms, as well as a seamless exchange of data between both agencies.
“As we all go to the same EHR system, and we start to think about that veteran’s journey, or service member or veteran’s journey, what that looks like, and how it really applies from the time someone was enlisted in the military to discharge – whether that Going out after one enlistment and one round or whether that’s going out after a lifelong journey into retirement — I think we owe it to our service people to have that right,” Speark said.