Army’s data strategy moves the service from industrial to information age


The Army’s chief information officer said the service has an “operational imperative” to migrate data to a cloud environment. First and foremost, it’s about protecting the force.

That’s how Army CIO Lt. Gen. Bruce Crawford told Federal News Network’s Tom Temin that the coronavirus pandemic has sparked a rapid adoption of technology over the past few months.

“A big part of protecting the force is our ability to protect our data and secure data,” he said on Federal Monthly Insights ꟷ Data Management.

Other goals include maintaining readiness, whole-of-nation efforts to support civil defense agencies, and “building the army of 2028.” Crawford said that entails six modernization priorities and the 31 signature programs to compete below the level of armed conflict and win in a multi-domain and joint, all-domain environments.

“The thing that we cannot lose track of is the operational imperative, as called out in the national defense strategy that drives our thinking and more importantly, our near term actions when it comes to the data in cloud evolutions in the work that we’re doing,” he said on Federal Drive with Tom Temin.

Greg Garcia, the Army’s deputy CIO and chief data officer, said the aim is to transition the service from the industrial age to the information age, wherein the Army is leveraging data as a strategic asset. But how does the service make data more available and foundational to mission decisions?

“We published an Army data plan in November and immediately followed that with an execution order that reached across the Army in total,” Garcia said. “The phases were to look and assess and set the environment — where are we today?”

He said the second phase was to determine how to adapt and build the environment; the third phase was to operationalize that environment, and maintaining that environment comes fourth.

Since November, Garcia said, the Army has built momentum through pillars of talent and a culture of data management as a strategic asset. But governance and administration of that vision, thanks to the direction of Army senior leaders, has also made a difference.

The Army’s data strategy also requires a storage approach that still allows the information to be discoverable, said Paul Puckett III, director of the Army’s Enterprise Cloud Management Office. Asked if the Army should store data in a “lake,” or impact the source, Puckett said the answer is both.

“If there’s authoritative data that’s originating from somewhere as a source, and maybe you’re deriving information from that data and maybe some other data that you’re joining with it, you want to make sure that you’re actually learning from that and that the authoritative source has access to that new information. So that you could actually make follow-on decisions where maybe you can improve the quality of data that’s coming from that authoritative data source,” he said.

Securing access to that data, and making it usable to any person or system depends on the mission’s workflow and desired outcome, he said.