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Understanding DOD’s ‘data decrees’: How the network can support a data-centric organization

By creating trust workflows at the tactical edge, ensuring infrastructure can support data sharing at scale and accelerating the velocity of data analytics, DOD can ensure information is in the hands of military strategists and warfighters in real time.

In the Defense Department’s “Creating Data Advantage” memo, the deputy secretary of Defense laid out five data decrees designed to modernize the DOD’s data strategy, support the transition to Joint All-Domain Command and Control (JADC2) and provide better decision support. Military leaders have also discussed the importance of “high-velocity data interoperability” to ensure information is in the hands of military strategists and warfighters in real time. 

However, to achieve these lofty goals, DOD grapples with many of the same data sharing, security, integrity, governance and resilience problems plaguing the private sector. 

Here are three network strategies DOD should consider adopting to transform itself into a data-centric organization.

Create trusted workflows from the tactical edge

To speed decision-making, DOD has invested significant time and resources into implementing edge computing at the tactical edge. Using sensor data, warfighters can analyze threats and targets and make decisions near-real time. But these benefits come with challenges. For example, the decentralized nature of edge computing creates a lack of visibility. Furthermore, the interconnected nature of edge devices means an attack on one can impact all and even extend to a broader network, such as JADC2.

An effective way to secure and manage mission-critical edge devices is to deploy micro-segmentation. Much like network segmentation, but designed for edge computing, micro-segmentation isolates edge devices and the main network, creating trusted workflows and protecting high-value data sources. 

To improve visibility into the security posture of edge devices, IT teams can leverage a change tracking system like a configuration management database. If unauthorized activity occurs on edge networks -- such as information extraction by an adversary – IT teams will be automatically notified so they can move to mitigate the incident before further damage is done.

IT staff should also practice ongoing cyber hygiene, such as reporting known vulnerabilities and threats to edge devices. Moreover, IT teams should conduct regular security training and consider adding experts in securing the internet of things (IoT) environments to current IT teams.

1. Ensure infrastructure can support data sharing at scale

Data is critical to DOD missions. But to maximize data sharing and data access, network and application performance must be assured.   

Continuous visibility will be necessary to understand data movement accurately and automatically identify bottlenecks before data availability is compromised. Artificial intelligence and machine learning are key enablers of this and are considered “absolutely essential” to JADC2. Using AIOps, which combines AI and ML to digest and analyze large volumes of data from across the IT environment, network teams can automate critical network and management tasks – a must-have in complex infrastructures interlacing disparate data sources.

AIOps can also detect anomalies, anticipate network issues or security threats before they arise and provide context to informed and proactive remediation ahead of any security impacts. 

2. Accelerate the velocity of data analytics 

Shortening the time to insight is essential to preserving military advantage. But the increased complexity of database ecosystems is a significant obstacle to mastering the data environment from the battlespace to the board room. Data must be unified from different sources, it must remain secure and of high quality and it must be linked and interoperable. DataOps makes this possible.

DataOps is an agile strategy for managing the increased complexity of modern data estates and accelerating analytics velocity. However, many tech pros report challenges in implementing a successful DataOps strategy due to a lack of training, education, data discovery and tooling. 

One of the best ways to overcome these hurdles is to let technology do the work. Automation and monitoring technologies, for instance, can give data professionals a holistic view of their entire database ecosystem. They can also accelerate the delivery of up-to-date, quality data so commanders and warfighters can put insights into action. For instance, with the proper tooling and data management processes in place, IT staff can ensure data is secure, visually track data dependencies across the environment to ensure data is flowing correctly and without error and pinpoint the root cause of potential issues for rapid remediation.

Speeding these efforts is imperative

As DOD strives to achieve a data advantage and resolve gaps in its capabilities, IT and senior Pentagon leadership must keep these three strategies top of mind. The timeframe for action is short; options and plans of action are due over the summer and into the early fall. These technologies will loom large as the deputy secretary of Defense looks to resolve any gaps in DOD’s capabilities.