Get serious about data, US intelligence leaders tell agencies
ODNI’s new three-year plan aims to turn data-gathering from afterthought to key asset.
It’s time to get serious about data—how it’s collected, curated, and capitalized upon by humans and machines—lest the country lose its intelligence edge, the Office of the Director of National Intelligence says in its new three-year data strategy.
“To date, we have not significantly prioritized data as a strategic and operational [intelligence community] asset. 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 document said.
To fix that, the IC wants to fine-tune the “data flow lifecycle from collection and acquisition, to transporting, ingesting, curating, exploiting, disseminating, and disposing of IC data.”
The strategy outlines four main goals: improve data management, ensure data is human and AI-ready with new services and tools, directly work with the private sector and academia, and develop intelligence officers who are fluent in how data works.
The ODNI’s strategy calls for automation to prepare and label data to reduce the time it takes to absorb datasets from days to minutes.
Also, every time data is collected or purchased, intel agencies will have to lay out how it will be transported, ingested, curated, exploited, disseminated, and disposed of “with consideration for its ethical and appropriate use, consistent with law and policy,” according to the strategy. That type of data management will help solidify “minimum common standards for the use, protection, dissemination, interoperability, and generation of IC data.”
Bolstering partnerships is another key pillar of the strategy, which could help with not having a full data workforce.
“Data acumen has to become a core skill for every member of the workforce—not just for data professionals. The workforce and supporting contractors need to know, understand, and value data utilization and sharing for mission value and insight,” the document said.
But there’s still the need for people who can make that happen.
“How do we work across, not only inside our buildings, but across the IC, across the [U.S. government], with our industry academic partners, so that we can really bring the best of what there is to bear in support of our mission,” said Lakshmi Raman, the Central Intelligence Agency’s director of AI innovation, during a panel discussion at the Intelligence and National Security Summit on Friday. “We don't have enough resources to do everything that we need to do.”