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Saturday, July 20, 2024

Intelligence Community Releases Data Strategy Emphasizing Better Interoperability and Agility Needed for Critical Missions

The strategy is broken down into four focus areas "to bridge the gap between where we are today and optimizing for the future" while ensuring that "end-to-end data management is core."

With “opportunities and vulnerabilities” posed by digital transformation that “cross every facet of the IC,” the Intelligence Community released a new data strategy that aims to respond to current and future threats with “significant agility and refinement of data-driven activities.”

“Embracing the complexity of the challenges in front of us, we will focus on data curation and advanced analytics to ensure data is consumable by both humans and machines,” the IC Data Strategy 2023-2025 states. “We must reduce the time from collection and data acquisition to mission insight based on a foundation of end-to-end data lifecycle management. Improving our capabilities and the associated outcomes requires changes to historical, system-centric paradigms, years of legacy practices, culture, critical partnerships across organizations, and disciplines.”

The IC published its first data strategy in 2017. The new document will guide the 18 elements that comprise the IC down a stronger data-driven path as both the threat landscape and technology rapidly evolve.

Director of National Intelligence Avril Haines stressed that the IC “needs a common strategy for how to leverage all collected and acquired data to operate, collaborate, and communicate securely at speed, while also ensuring that we do so lawfully and consistent with our values.”

“In the next decade, we will be pushed even further and faster by expected and unexpected evolutions in technology, particularly of the internet and artificial intelligence,” Haines wrote at the outset of the strategy. “The IC Data Strategy will allow us to harness and accelerate our efforts in mutually reinforcing ways across the U.S. government, with our foreign partners and our private sector and academic partners, to make data interoperable and discoverable, and thereby unlock mission value and insight to ensure continued decision advantage and actionable intelligence.”

Intelligence Community Chief Data Officer Lori Wade emphasized that “to stay ahead of the diverse, complex, and growing threats and opportunities facing the nation, the IC must embrace the ongoing digital and data transformation and plan for it.”

“The IC Data Strategy directs our collective energy to make data securely accessible and interoperable across boundaries and domains,” Wade said. “We will transform the workforce into one capable of recognizing and realizing the value of data. These efforts will expand the ability to discover, access, and leverage the IC’s data securely at the speed of mission.”

The strategy centers around enhancing discovery, access, and use of data for mission; focusing on the vision of a data-driven IC that is “optimized and positioned for decision and operational advantage”; and adhering to core values of “interoperability, sharing, partnership, innovation” with a data plan that is “protective of privacy and civil liberties.”

The strategy is broken down into four focus areas “to bridge the gap between where we are today and optimizing for the future” — ensuring that over the next three years of digital transformation across the IC “end-to-end data management is core to what we do and not seen as merely an enabling function.”

“The IC Chief Data Officer (IC CDO) and IC Chief Data Officer Council (IC CDOC) will identify the strategic steps the IC can take now to drive significant progress in addressing our data challenges while reinforcing the Principles of Professional Ethics for the IC, which embody our core values,” the strategy notes. “Appreciating that the pace of digital innovation is so fast, we will employ an active and iterative strategy development approach going forward — agility and continuous learning will be central to planning for our future strategic imperatives.”

The document acknowledges that the IC has not yet “significantly prioritized” data as the strategic and operational asset it is.

“The central challenge remains that the IC is not fielding data, analytics, and artificial intelligence (AI)-enabled capabilities at the pace and scale required to preserve our decision and intelligence advantage,” the strategy states. “Addressing the challenge requires an integrated and data-centric approach, focused on the holistic data flow lifecycle from collection and acquisition, to transporting, ingesting, curating, exploiting, disseminating, and disposing of IC data.”

The first strategic focus area aims to “create end-to-end data management plans for the collection and acquisition of all data, to enable and reduce the time of secure data flow from collection to actionable insight.”

This end-to-end data management planning “will establish needed interoperability standards, data handling instructions, tagging and conditioning, attributes and machine readable labels, data privacy and compliance, and data science and engineering” and include “minimum common standards for the use, protection, dissemination, interoperability, and generation of IC data.”

The second focus area on data delivery aims to “adopt and mature existing data services, add new services and capabilities, and ensure data is AI-ready and consumable by both humans and machines.”

The Intelligence Community will address interoperability challenges by implementing “a data-centric framework that shifts the current focus from a system-centric to a data-centric architecture.”

“The adoption of a data-centric focus is core to developing machine-assisted data discovery, precise and unambiguous data interpretability, data interoperability, AI- and machine-assisted analytic workflows, community collaboration, clearly defined measures of data quality, and to preserving integrity and provenance,” the strategy adds. “The data-centric operating model will define integration and standardization requirements as well as elements of supportability for participants. The associated architectural elements of a data-centric framework will provide clear guidance for models, entities, ontology, information exchange, and metadata standards.”

Advancements in automation are expected to assist with data preparation and labeling and be integral in cutting “the time it takes to ingest new IC data sets from weeks, to days, to hours, and to minutes.”

The third area of strategic focus is centered on building and advancing critical partnerships within the private sector and academia “to promote a more sophisticated and integrated understanding of the evolving data and digital landscape, while also promoting innovation intended to support every aspect of this Strategy’s Vision of a data-driven IC that is optimized and positioned for decision and operational advantage.”

This strengthened collaboration will include developing “new approaches to partnering, contracting, and licensing” with the understanding of how data and the digital landscape are evolving, “leveraging innovative data processes and tools — particularly those involving Artificial Intelligence,” and tapping the talent pool to “build new models for future data creation and management.”

The fourth and final focus area centers on data-driven workforce transformation and developing IC officers “who are capable of recognizing, discovering, and sharing data to enable mission value and actionable intelligence.”

“Data acumen has to become a core skill for every member of the workforce — not just for data professionals,” the strategy says. “The workforce and supporting contractors need to know, understand, and value data utilization and sharing for mission value and insight. A data-savvy workforce is important as we decisively drive forward our evolving mission capabilities with the ever-changing digital and data landscape for not only AI, but also other emerging technologies to come.”

The first IC Data Strategy Annual Action Plan will be developed by the IC CDO and the IC CDO Council this year “to identify discrete activities and milestones, develop metrics, and track results.” Updated action plans will be released each year.

Bridget Johnson
Bridget Johnson
Bridget Johnson is the Managing Editor for Homeland Security Today. A veteran journalist whose news articles and analyses have run in dozens of news outlets across the globe, Bridget first came to Washington to be online editor and a foreign policy writer at The Hill. Previously she was an editorial board member at the Rocky Mountain News and syndicated nation/world news columnist at the Los Angeles Daily News. Bridget is a terrorism analyst and security consultant with a specialty in online open-source extremist propaganda, incitement, recruitment, and training. She hosts and presents in Homeland Security Today law enforcement training webinars studying a range of counterterrorism topics including conspiracy theory extremism, complex coordinated attacks, critical infrastructure attacks, arson terrorism, drone and venue threats, antisemitism and white supremacists, anti-government extremism, and WMD threats. She is a Senior Risk Analyst for Gate 15 and a private investigator. Bridget is an NPR on-air contributor and has contributed to USA Today, The Wall Street Journal, New York Observer, National Review Online, Politico, New York Daily News, The Jerusalem Post, The Hill, Washington Times, RealClearWorld and more, and has myriad television and radio credits including Al-Jazeera, BBC and SiriusXM.

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