CDAO will focus on unlocking data rather than having common operating picture

"The goal is not to create one common operating picture. It's allowing us to be able to have data that is ubiquitously available," said Col. Matthew Strohmeyer.

As the Defense Department is working to accelerate the fielding of the Combined Joint All-Domain Command and Control capability through a series of experiments known as the Global Information Dominance Experiments, GIDE’s ultimate goal is having data that is universally available to warfighters at all levels rather than creating a single common operating picture that sees it all.

While commanders already have access to tools that allow them to take disparate data sets from multiple classification levels and pull them into one common operating picture, the focus is on building out an ecosystem where users can choose the applications that best suit their needs as they tap into that universally available data.

“The goal is not necessarily to create one [common operating picture] that can see essentially everything. We have things that are working toward in that direction. But it’s to allow more distributed options of how people would use that data so they can use it for whatever purpose they want,” said Air Force Col. Matthew Strohmeyer, who leads the GIDE series, during a C4ISRnet webinar last week.

And while the Chief Digital and Artificial Intelligence Office will ensure they provide standard tools in case military personnel want to use them, the goal is to allow warfighters at every command level to build and use their own applications.

“We don’t believe it’s our job to really direct or mandate, ‘Thou shalt use this application.’ Because it’s the warfighting users at every echelon [who have] the best knowledge of what their mission is and how they could accomplish that mission best,” said Strohmeyer.

“It’s our job to unlock that data and to give the tools that might help them to be able to do it,” he continued.

But through the series of GIDE events, the CDAO leadership is learning just how difficult it is to create an environment where data is ubiquitously available. “There certainly are a lot of technical hurdles. Doing CJADC2 is like multi-level chess,” said Strohmeyer.

There are data availability, integration, and awareness challenges on one level. “Sometimes we don’t really fully know where exactly that data lives. And then who is the owner of said data? And can we get an agreement to be able to share that data from government to government?” said Strohmeyer.

After that data is integrated, the next step is to structure it so it can be used across various programs, be it a different vendor or a different program within the DoD. On top of it, it is challenging to create applications that can utilize this structured data effectively to fulfill various mission needs.

“We might have J-2 intelligence data that is very useful to operators or very useful to logisticians. But if that data is not structured properly, to be able to leave J-2 land and go into J-3 and J-4 land, it becomes really difficult to be able to use it for those other users. That’s one of the next levels of challenges is how to structure our data properly,” said Strohmeyer.

“How do we apply an application that can effectively use that data, but it can use it in a way that I don’t only have access to this one mission application? We need to have a heterogeneous mix of mission applications to get after all the things that we are doing.”

The CDAO just wrapped up GIDE 10 several weeks ago. At the end of last year, the office delivered a minimum viable capability for CJADC2 and has recently been working on developing a set of requirements to allow more companies to contribute to expanding the data integration layer.

Through these experiments, the CDAO team is learning that data ownership is not as important, and the focus should be on making sure data is available and can be integrated from multiple sources.

“Whereas in the past, we really as organizations would really want to own that data. Now we’re finding the ability to integrate that data is really important.”

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