U.S. intelligence agencies released a new data strategy today, laying the foundations for agencies like the CIA and FBI to hone their work on artificial intelligence (AI) tools over the next three years.

The 2023-2025 IC Data Strategy sets up four strategic focus areas that offer the nation’s 18 intelligence agencies a common strategy to “unlock mission value and insight, and leverage our data to operate, collaborate, and communicate securely and at the speed of mission.”

“Data, and our ability to manage it properly, is fundamental to our work and to maintaining our advantage in an increasingly complex and interconnected global security environment,” Director of National Intelligence Avril Haines said in the report. “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.”

She continued, adding, “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.”

The July 18 strategy report emphasizes that the United States has entered “a new period of strategic competition” where it’s no longer about the volume of data, but who can wield that data and gain actionable insight the fastest.

The strategy recognizes that, to date, the intelligence community (IC) has failed to prioritize data as a strategic asset. In order to change that, the IC will require a shift in “historical, system-centric paradigms, years of legacy practices, culture, critical partnerships across organizations, and disciplines.”

“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 report says. “With the IC Data Strategy guiding us forward, the IC will plan for and expand capabilities for data sharing, improve data usability, develop a data-savvy workforce, and continue to innovate toward a data-driven IC enterprise.”

The new strategy directs the IC community to focus on four strategic data areas over the next three years:

  • Performing end-to-end data management: Agencies will 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;
  • Delivering data interoperability and analytics at speed and scale: The IC will adopt and mature existing data services, add new services and capabilities, and ensure data is AI-ready and consumable by both humans and machines;
  • Advancing all partnerships for continued digital and data innovation: Strengthen IC partnerships with the private sector and academic partners 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; and
  • Transforming the IC workforce to be data-driven: Develop IC officers who are capable of recognizing, discovering, and sharing data to enable mission value and actionable intelligence.

The new data strategy focuses on AI by directing the IC to adopt and support AI and automation for data collection, partner with the private sector to leverage AI to more effectively manage, use, store, and secure data, and train a data-savvy workforce to use AI to drive mission capabilities forward.

“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,” IC Chief Data Officer Lori Wade said in the report. “The IC Data Strategy directs our collective energy to make data securely accessible and interoperable across boundaries and domains. We will transform the workforce into one capable of recognizing and realizing the value of data.”

Rachel Grunspan, the Office of the Director of National Intelligence’s (ODNI) IC AIM (augmenting intelligence using machines) director, said last week that the IC has been working towards adopting an “AI-first IC” strategy.

“What we mean by that is that everyone, from leadership all the way to those on the line, have adopted a mindset about how to have an orientation for leveraging AI across all aspects of their jobs,” Grunspan said. “That also includes things like upscaling, having a gladiator mentality to helping other people, and ensuring that everybody is just helping all those lift up as quickly as possible.”

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Cate Burgan
Cate Burgan
Cate Burgan is a MeriTalk Senior Technology Reporter covering the intersection of government and technology.