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Data as a team sport: An intelligence community-wide panel discussion

By Chasen Thoennes Defense Intelligence Agency

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Data officers from across the intelligence community participated in a panel discussion, Aug. 14, at the Defense Intelligence Agency Department of Defense Intelligence Information System Worldwide Conference. 

 

Moderated by Steve Prosser, chief data officer for the intelligence community, the panelists discussed the data centric shift of the intelligence community and the changes in infrastructure to make data more available across all agencies. 

 

Office of Naval Intelligence Chief Data officer Ben Apple explained that in the past, data was compartmentalized in applications with restricted access, but the intelligence community is currently breaking down the silos, providing analysts with new data and moving from forensic analysis to predictive. He added, by going to a multifaceted environment, it cuts down on redundancy and adapts to an enterprise-wide look at data.

 

Panel members also emphasized that while making data accessible is important, changing culture and standardizing language within the intelligence community is as equally essential. 

 

“Language is an expression of culture,” explained Matt Cerroni, National Reconnaissance Office chief data officer. “We all have very different cultures within our agencies because we have very different missions. We need to have the same words for the same things.”

 

FBI Chief Data Officer Maria Voreh stressed the importance of data governance and the need for policy changes to protect data, but also make it available to those who need it for their mission. 

 

Voreh also discussed the need to focus on data science. She highlighted the fact that the FBI has opened positions like digital operations specialists that are essential for cultural change. 

 

Voreh says it is important for the intelligence community to work outside of itself to see real change. 

 

“We have to enhance and strengthen partnerships with each other, but we can’t do it alone,” said Voreh. “We have to partner with industry and academia and leverage them to solve problems. 

 

The data panel included chief data officers from the Defense Intelligence Agency, National Security Agency, National Geospatial Intelligence Agency, National Reconnaissance Office, Federal Bureau of Investigation, U.S. Coast Guard, Office of Naval Intelligence and the U.S. Department of State.

 

DoDIIS is the largest intelligence community conference that brings together experts from government, military, industry, and academia in order to tackle the information technology challenges and complexities impacting the mission user.