The Defense Innovation Board is turning its attention to the Defense Department’s data problems.
The board is investigating the establishment of a secure global data repository for the Pentagon. But, as the board continues its business, some wonder how seriously it will be taken now that the leadership that put it into place has ridden off into the sunset.
DIB, which is made up of some of the most successful business minds in the tech world, might approve a recommendation to create a one-stop shop for the Pentagon’s gigantic collection of data.
“Data as a strategic asset needs to be managed different than it is now,” said Eric Schmidt, board chair and executive chairman of Alphabet, during an April 4 meeting.
In their travels to different bases and commands, the board members said they found that data was dispersed and inaccessible to different DoD components. Data was siloed in services, trapped in old legacy systems and shelved away where no one could find it.
The purpose of a singular repository would be to make the right data available to DoD when it’s needed.
Getting there is a long road, however. Six leaders from the military services and DoD testified before the board about the state of data. Some said DoD had so much data it doesn’t even know how to handle it, while others said data was hardly accessible and impossible to obtain.
“In every given day in the Air Force [intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance] enterprise 22 terabytes of data are collected in an attempt to exploit it. You cannot exploit 22 terabytes of data the way we are doing things today. That is equivalent to 5 1/2 seasons of NFL video or two times the holdings of the entire printed version of the Library of Congress,” said Lt. Gen. Jack Shanahan, director for Defense Intelligence for Warfighter Support. “It means we are beginning to overwhelm our analysts who are on the back end of this great backstory who have to exploit, analyze and disseminate the data.”
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But other parts of DoD feel completely differently. Bess Dopkeen, a senior analyst for Cost Assessment and Program Evaluation, said data is hard to come by in the acquisition world.
“Timely authoritative data is not available for real analysis. We do not have the amazing amounts of data you’d assume we have, we’ve never strategically collected it. Everybody fights the strategic collection and sharing of data everywhere you turn,” Dopkeen said. “There is no real acquisition data system. The only one that exists collects data on only the biggest programs.”
If there were to be a central repository for data, DoD and the board members still have some planning to do.
Where would it be stored? How would it be accessed? How would it be compatible with other systems? Would it be safe from hackers and how would it be backed up? All of those questions are still to be answered.