The Pentagon’s Defense Information Systems Agency (DISA) has released a new strategy to improve the state of the agency’s data integration and utilization, information technology, and network capabilities.

The DISA Data Strategy Implementation Plan (IPlan) describes a modern approach to information architecture and data management, outlines workstreams necessary to organize activities, defines future activities, and identifies the next steps for the agency.

“When thoughtfully collected and analyzed, data can accelerate innovation, and improve service delivery. There is also an inherent power in owning data to control the high ground,” Air Force Lt. Gen Robert J. Skinner, DISA’s director, wrote in the IPlan introduction.

“DISA’s chief data officer (CDO) will drive the agency toward a more data-centric culture and ensure that data is discoverable, accessible, and decision-enabling through secure and modernized systems, standards, and governance” he said.

Caroline Kuharske, DISA’s acting chief data officer (CDO), said the IPlan targets the agency’s ability to leverage data as a strategic asset – in line with DISA’s fiscal year 2022-24 strategic plan.

“The IPlan will guide how DISA will manage and exploit data as a critical asset to deliver agile digital capabilities to the nation’s warfighter and achieve information dominance,” Kuharske said in a press release.

IPlan is divided into four lines of effort that meet the goals and objectives set by the Department of Defense (DoD) chief information officer under the DoD Data Strategy.

Line of Effort One: Data Architecture, Governance 

DISA’s ability to exploit data as an asset depends on its ability to properly manage its data as an asset, the agency said. Therefore, data assets must be visible, accessible, understandable, linked, trusted, interoperable and secure. In addition, proper data management can provide the warfighter with a critical advantage, furthering DISA’s need to develop effective methods to exploit data assets and meet mission requirements.

“As a combat support agency, we must continue to engage with industry experts, large and small businesses, academic experts, and other data-centric organizations to improve future data capabilities and ensure our systems and standards match current data capabilities,” Kuharske said.

The Office of the CDO plans to work on unraveling DISA’s current data architecture and rebuild it into a cohesive system that enables transparency, and data sharing and encourages data collaboration.

Line of Effort Two: Advanced Analytics 

For DISA to be successful in data analysis, the agency must implement advanced analytics processes as an effective and impactful way to exploit data – especially as the agency looks to eliminate information silos and connect decision makers in an agile and scalable manner.

“Advanced analytics can predict patterns and potentially determine the outcome of future events – shifting the agency’s ability to be more responsive by increasing the speed and accuracy of the decision-making process,” Kuharske said.

The IPlan directs the Office of the CDO to establish an Analytics Center of Excellence to identify and set adoption standards across the agency to promote the exploitation of DISA data assets.

Line of Effort Three: Data Culture 

One of the goals behind the IPlan is to ensure that DISA becomes a data-driven organization. Therefore, DISA will first require a fundamental shift in its culture while the agency redefines its relationship with data.

According to Kuharske, implementing a data-driven culture across the agency will require a well-trained, knowledgeable, and data-aware workforce. Data stewards, she explained, are a core component of the success of DISA’s data evolution.

“We hope to build an environment that encourages the workforce to collaborate and keep data at the center of the decision-making process,” Kuharske said.

The DISA CDO Office plans to establish modern data governance and stewardship programs to ensure that data assets are fully employed and positioned correctly to meet mission outcomes quickly.

“We are currently developing data management, data scientist, and data advanced-analytic focused training and certifications for the agency, which will provide stewards with the resources and training they will need to excel in data management,” Kuharske said.

Line of Effort Four: Knowledge Management

The fourth line of effort in the IPlan aims to ensure improvement of the decision-making process at all levels through the organization and management of sharing data, information, instructions, and lessons learned.

Knowledge management, Kuharske explained, is a catalyst for process development and ensures communication and understanding of the director’s intent across the agency. In addition, this will accelerate the agency’s ability to influence intentional growth and facilitate decision-making.

“With a better data maturity, DISA will become more cost-efficient, will see a higher percentage in productivity, secure data from our adversaries, and ensure accurate decisions are made,” Kuharske said.

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Lisbeth Perez
Lisbeth Perez
Lisbeth Perez is a MeriTalk Senior Technology Reporter covering the intersection of government and technology.