The Defense Information Systems Agency (DISA) is striving to achieve a data-centric culture with the help of a new strategic plan.
Released in October 2021, the plan calls for the agency to leverage data as a "center of gravity" and develop a more modern and secure approach to data management, DISA Director Lt. Gen. Robert Skinner said.
Caroline Kuharske, acting chief data officer of the Enterprise Integration and Innovation Center at DISA, said initially the agency’s data management was siloed. The new Chief Data Office is now focusing on breaking down those silos and creating a holistic data pipeline throughout DISA.
“This will enable data sharing and data discovery. It will utilize quantitative data for our decision-making. Instead of having to go to various sources, we will have data available in a consolidated viewer ability to have easier access,” Kuharske said at an AFCEA event last month.
Kuharske outlined several components of the strategic plan that will lead DISA to the data centricity they are striving to get to including viewing data and using it as an asset.
“Investing in data as a tangible entity by using data catalogs and robust cyber analytic processes to have data as a tool that you can create reports for automation and innovation programs through that data,” Kuharske said.
Advanced analytics is critical for DISA to meet that true mark for data-centric culture, and data culture will promote data use and better data maturity within the agency.
“It’s not that we need more data, but that we need better data and we need to be able to understand it and provide it to the operations community and missions’ partners to use for their own tasks," Kuharske said. "Training the workforce and giving them better tools. Promote utilizing collaboration programs. Instead of sending a document back and forth in an email, why don’t we use collaboration tools that allow us to edit documents in real time, and that will lead to better data management, which will lead to updated information across the agency.”
DISA’s Endpoint Services and Customer Support (ECS) Directorate is also taking steps to carry out Skinner’s strategic plan.
Bart Aimone, technical director of the ECS and director of the 4th Estate Network Optimization Office at DISA, said the main objective is to develop and integrate a common set of tools to help make data available that drives what’s happening inside the agency’s environment.
“We are working to unify tool sets and have one source of data that makes sense and have an enterprise data foundation model that the agency would leverage and feed that information in there with DOD net and the global service desk. We’re building that common tool mindset as the core of all of our service architectures,” Aimone said.
Making data is a key driver for ECS and doing that with tool integration, making sure the data we are making available is secure while in transition and at rest is of utmost importance.
“We understand where the data is, when it’s moving and who’s able to see it. Identity is also key to that so we are plugging into DOD’s higher level identity components that DISA supports to ensure we have end-to-end capability of who knows what, when and how much to assure that data is properly protected,” Aimone said.
A culture centered around data will benefit the service members in many ways, such as enabling the ability to make data-informed decisions at mission speed.
“When DISA starts combining our data with analytics to provide that brutal world view for real-time events, our ability to be agile with our decisions and also for the warfighter community for their decision-making is how we’re going to achieve the velocity to win that the DISA strategic plan has outlined,” Kuharske said. “It will ensure the appropriate entity is getting the data they need in a timely manner. We have automated tools in the backend to use data we have and keep services safe and secure so warfighters can focus on other things.”
Aimone believes a data-centric culture will be vital to helping end users across the defense agencies and field activities.
“As we move forward, data-centric management will be more and more key, drive more and more innovation across the environment, it will allow us to find targets for automation, and it will be key for us and our endpoint users to develop an agile workforce, anytime, anywhere,” Aimone said.