Home / Technology / AI & IT / DOD recognizing data as a strategic asset has developed enterprise-wide data strategy to transform into a data-centric enterprise.

DOD recognizing data as a strategic asset has developed enterprise-wide data strategy to transform into a data-centric enterprise.

The Department of Defense’s (DoD) mission is to provide the military forces needed to deter war and ensure our nation’s security. The DoD now recognizes that data is a strategic asset that must be operationalized in order to provide a lethal and effective Joint Force that, combined with our network of allies and partners, sustains American influence and advances shared security and prosperity. The DOD’s data strategy comes as the Pentagon and military services work to integrate data sharing from sensors to weapons as part of a joint all domain operating warfighting concept and push for interoperable communications and data sharing.


Warfighters at all echelons require tested, secure, seamless access to data across networks, supporting infrastructure, and weapon systems out to the tactical edge. The advanced capabilities provided by DoD’s Digital Modernization program depend upon enterprise data management policies, standards, and practices. Sensors and platforms across all domains must be designed, procured, and exercised with open data standards as a key requirement. Survival on the modern battlefield will depend upon leveraging and making connections among data from diverse sources, using analytic tools for superior situational awareness, and coordinating information for disaggregated-precision effects.


To enable this change, the Department is adopting new technologies as part of its Digital Modernization program – from automation to Artificial Intelligence (Al) to 5G-enabled edge devices. However, the success of these efforts depends upon fueling this digital infrastructure in a secure manner with the vast flows of data available from external sources, DoD systems, and connected sensors and platforms.


The DoD Data Strategy, as a key component of the Department’s Digital Modernization program, supports the National Defense Strategy (NDS) by enhancing military effectiveness through access to accurate, timely, and secure data. While opportunities to improve proficiency and efficiency are everywhere, this strategy focuses efforts on Joint Warfighting, Senior Leader Decision Support, and Business Analytics.


Improving data management will enhance the Department’s ability to fight and win wars in an era of great power competition, and it will enable operators and military decision-makers to harness data to capitalize on strategic and tactical opportunities that are currently unavailable.  Adversaries are also racing to amass data superiority, and whichever side can better leverage data will gain military advantage. Our ability to fight and win wars requires that we become world leaders in operationalizing and protecting our data resources at speed and scale,  says David L. Norquist Deputy Secretary of Defense.


Data strategy

The DoD Data Strategy supports Digital Modernization by providing the overarching vision, guiding principles, essential capabilities, goals, and objectives necessary to navigate this transition and transform into a data-centric enterprise.


DOD outlined seven principles, which include general guidelines on data ethics, collection, artificial intelligence training, and access. There are also seven goals with 33 objectives, ranging from making data more visible by developing metadata standards for location and access methods, to making it more secure through data stewards who will assess data classification and test security compliance.


Guiding Principles that are foundational to all data efforts in the DoD:

1.) Data is a Strategic Asset – DoD data is a high-interest commodity and must be leveraged in a way that brings both immediate and lasting military advantage.
2.) Collective Data Stewardship – DoD must assign data stewards, data custodians, and a set of functional data managers to achieve accountability throughout the entire data lifecycle. Data stewards establish policies governing data access, use, protection, quality, and dissemination. Data custodians are responsible for promoting the value of data and enforcing policies, and functional data managers implement the policies and manage day-to-day quality.
3.) Data Ethics – DoD must put ethics at the forefront of all thought and actions as it relates to how data is collected, used, and stored.
4.) Data Collection – DoD must enable electronic collection of data at the point of creation and maintain the pedigree of that data at all times. The moment data is created, it should be tagged, stored, and cataloged. When the data is combined or integrated, the resulting product must also be immediately collected, tagged, curated, and appropriately secured. To expedite these processes and to minimize the risk of human error, these steps should be automated to the maximum extent possible.
5.) Enterprise-Wide Data Access and Availability – DoD data must be made available for use by all authorized individuals and non-person entities through appropriate mechanisms. DoD has lacked the enterprise data management to ensure that trusted, critical data is widely available to or accessible by mission commanders, warfighters, decision-makers, and mission partners in a realtime, useable, secure, and linked manner. This limits data-driven decisions and insights, which hinders the execution of swift and appropriate action.

As such, DoD is making the cultural shift from the need to know (i.e., information withholding) to the responsibility to provide (i.e., information sharing). Making data available across warfighting, intelligence, and business systems is essential to gaining an enterprise-wide view into the daily operations of the Department and absolutely critical to the success of both the National Defense Strategy and the Digital Modernization Strategy.

6.) Data for Artificial Intelligence Training – Data sets for A.I. training and algorithmic models will increasingly become the DoD’s most valuable digital assets and we must create a framework for managing them across the data lifecycle that provides protected visibility and responsible brokerage. As DoD modernizes and integrates AI technologies into joint warfighting, generating DoD-wide visibility of and access to these digital assets will be vital in an era of algorithmic warfare.
7.) Data Fit for Purpose – DoD must carefully consider any ethical concerns in data collection, sharing, use, rapid data integration as well as minimization of any sources of unintended bias.
8.) Design for Compliance – DoD must implement IT solutions that provide an opportunity to fully automate the information management lifecycle, properly secure data, and maintain end-to-end records management.


Goals (aka, VAULTIS) we must achieve to become a data-centric DoD:

1.) Make Data Visible – Consumers can locate the needed data.

DoD will know it has made progress on making data visible when:
Objective 1: Data is advertised and available for authorized users when and where needed.
Objective 2: DoD implements metadata standards including location and access methods for shared data.
Objective 3: All DoD data sources are catalogued.
Objective 4: DoD implements common services to publish, search, and discover data.
Objective 5: Warfighting and business governance bodies make decisions based on live visualizations of near real-time data.

2.) Make Data Accessible – Consumers can retrieve the data.

DoD will know it has made progress on making data accessible when:
Objective 1: Data is accessible through documented standard Application Programming Interfaces (APIs).
Objective 2: Common platforms and services create, retrieve, share, utilize, and manage data.
Objective 3: Data access and sharing is controlled through reusable APIs.

3.) Make Data Understandable – Consumers can recognize the content, context, and applicability.

DoD will know it has made progress on making data understandable when:
Objective 1: Data is presented in a way that preserves semantic meaning and is expressed in a standardized manner throughout DoD.
Objective 2: DoD utilizes a common data syntax for the same data types and includes semantic metadata with data assets.
Objective 3: Data elements are aligned into a comprehensive data dictionary with a controlled, yet flexible, vocabulary and taxonomy.
Objective 4: Data is baselined and inventoried in comprehensive data catalogs with relevant information on purpose, ownership, points of contact, security, standards, interfaces, limitations, and restrictions on use.
Objective 5: DoD has processes to create, align, implement, and manage business vocabularies, including enterprise standards.

4.) Make Data Linked – Consumers can exploit data elements through innate relationships.
5.) Make Data Trustworthy – Consumers can be confident in all aspects of data for decision-making.

6.) Make Data Interoperable – Consumers have a common representation/comprehension of data. DoD software and hardware systems must be designed, procured, tested, upgraded, operated, and sustained with data interoperability as a key requirement. All too often these gaps are bridged with unnecessary human-machine interfaces that introduce complexity, delay, and increased risk of error. This constrains the Department’s ability to operate against threats at machine speed across all domains.

DoD will know it has made progress toward making data interoperable when:
Objective 1: DoD documents and implements data exchange specifications for all systems, including those of coalition partners.

Objective 2: Exchange specifications contain required metadata and convey standardized semantic meaning with the data set.
Objective 3: Public data assets are machine-readable and available for consumption.
Objective 4: DoD rapidly mediates differing data standards and formats without mission critical loss of fidelity, precision, or accuracy.
Objective 5: DoD develops and promulgates a data-tagging strategy and subsequent implementation plan to enable data interoperability

7.) Make Data Secure – Consumers know that data is protected from unauthorized use/manipulation.

DoD will know it has made progress toward making data secure when:
Objective 1: Granular privilege management (identity, attributes, permissions, etc.) is implemented to govern the access to, use of, and disposition of data.
Objective 2: Data stewards regularly assess classification criteria and test compliance to prevent security issues resulting from data aggregation.
Objective 3: DoD implements approved standards for security markings, handling restrictions, and records management.
Objective 4: Classification and control markings are defined and implemented; content and record retention rules are developed and implemented.
Objective 5: DoD implements data loss prevention technology to prevent unintended release and disclosure of data.
Objective 6: Only authorized users are able to access and share data.
Objective 7: Access and handling restriction metadata are bound to data in an immutable manner.
Objective 8: Access, use, and disposition of data are fully audited.

Essential Capabilities necessary to enable all goals:

1.) Architecture – DoD architecture, enabled by enterprise cloud and other technologies, must allow pivoting on data more rapidly than adversaries are able to adapt. The ability to develop and deploy lightweight applications rapidly and continuously in support of user needs revolutionizes how DoD uses data and leads to a strategic advantage. An agile architectural approach enables incremental value to be delivered by balancing emergent design and intentional architecture. This agile approach allows the architecture of data and systems
(even a large solution) to evolve over time, while simultaneously supporting the needs of current users.
2.) Standards – DoD employs a family of standards that include not only commonly recognized approaches for the management and utilization of data assets, but also proven and successful methods for representing and sharing data. Given the diversity of DoD systems, these standards should be applied at the earliest practical point in the data lifecycle and industry standards for an open data architecture should be used wherever practical. Standards are not an end unto themselves, but rather, they provide value when enabling data and information to be readily and securely utilized and exchanged. Additionally, physical encoding of the data interchange specifications will allow operations in congested and contested environments.
3.) Governance – DoD data governance provides the principles, policies, processes, frameworks, tools, metrics, and oversight required to effectively manage data at all levels, from creation to disposition.
4.) Talent and Culture – DoD workforce (Service Members, Civilians, and Contractors at every echelon) will be increasingly empowered to work with data, make data-informed decisions, create evidence-based policies, and implement effectual processes. DoD also must improve skills in data fields necessary for effective data management. The Department must broaden efforts to assess our current talent, recruit new data experts, and retain our developing force while establishing policies to ensure that data talent is cultivated. We must also spend the time to increase the data acumen resident acrossthe workforce and find optimal ways to promote a culture of data awareness.


Focus Areas

Data policies and standards alone cannot strengthen data management or improve data quality. They must be continuously informed by feedback from users who consume, produce, manage, and govern data with particular emphasis given to the operational community and warfighter needs.


Although data is critical to every DoD mission, initial areas of focus include: Joint All-Domain Operations, business analytics, and senior leader decision support.

Joint All-Domain Operations: As part of the National Defense Strategy’s focus on great power competition and conflict, the Secretary has directed the Joint Staff and Military Departments (MILDEPs) to develop new concepts for coordinating military effects in an all-domain fight. The data governance community must closely partner with the Joint All-Domain Command and Control (JADC2) Cross-Functional Team (CFT), the Joint Artificial Intelligence Center (JAIC), and the Deputy CIO for C3 to ensure that we can coordinate information with the tactical edge in a highly contested environment. Clear data standards and interoperability requirements for JADC2 directly support future military readiness.


Senior Leader Decision Support: Senior leaders, including the Deputy Secretary, have directed the development of clear, quantifiable metrics to inform a wide-range of management decisions, such as options for implementing the National Defense Strategy. The data community must support efforts to provide current, decision-quality data along with a platform of tools for analysis and visualization. This approach will accelerate the Department’s transition to using live, interactive data in place of static slides to inform strategic outcomes.

Business Analytics: The DoD Comptroller, working with the Chief Management Officer (CMO) and others, is leading an effort to ingest, analyze, and display a wide range of business data; this includes information on budget, procurement, inventory, logistics, and personnel. The data governance community will use the insights from this effort to inform their policies on issues such as authoritative data sources, consistent metadata labeling, standard taxonomies, data provenance, and interfaces (e.g., APIs). This effort could also foster migration to a common data platform for all business analytics across the Department.



Data underpins digital modernization and is increasingly the fuel of every DoD process, algorithm, and weapon system. The DoD Data Strategy describes an ambitious approach for transforming the Department into a data-driven organization. This requires strong and effective data management coupled with close partnerships with users, particularly warfighters. Every leader must treat data as a weapon system, stewarding data throughout its lifecycle and ensuring it is made available to others. The Department must provide its personnel with the modern data skills and tools to preserve U.S. military advantage in day-to-day competition and ensure that they can prevail in conflict.


We have a responsibility to gain full value from DoD capabilities and investments, thereby earning the trust of the operational warfighter, the U.S. Congress, and the American people. Embracing new data driven concepts and leveraging commercial-sector innovations will improve military operations and increase lethality. The responsibility of all DoD leaders is to treat data as a weapon system and manage, secure, and use data for operational effect. The warfighter is counting on us to ensure that the U.S. military remains the most potent and effective fighting force in the world.


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