There is a lot of data to go around at the Department of Defense (DoD), but one of the biggest challenges the agency faces is that not everybody has access to the data that they need, a Pentagon official said this week.

Bill Streilein, chief technology officer for DoD’s Chief Digital and Artificial Intelligence Office, explained that when it comes to modernizing the DoD, the agency needs to implement IT that can continue to evolve and meet new challenges.

“Among the major challenges is the fact that the data has not really been fully unlocked,” Streilein said during a March 14 webinar event hosted by GovExec. “The data exists across the department, but it isn’t necessarily accessible to everybody.”

“And whether that’s because there’s an antiquated system that was involved in collecting it and storing it, or there’s access controls or governance or policy even that keep people from getting access to it, all for good reason, but those sorts of impediments are really what is keeping the department from fully unlocking it,” he added.

In response to this challenge, Streilein said there are a couple of ways to solve it. One is by pulling the data together through an authoritative data source, such as Advana.

Advana is a modern data platform that pulls data from hundreds of business systems to make data discoverable and usable for advanced analytics. The DoD utilizes the platform to access data that will help inform decision-making.

“Advana has done a great job of demonstrating the power of that sort of solution,” the CTO said. “Once you’ve got your data in one place, authoritatively collected, it can be leveraged and all sorts of analytics can be developed on top of that.”

However, in the end, Streilein said he’s not sure that a solution like that will enable scaling across all of the department’s data sources.

Therefore, he said the agency is looking at “extending that with a federated model that allows us to leverage the data at its source, but still enable sort of self-service access permitted and be a role or attribute-based sort of mechanism that let people compose analytics based on that data.”

“I would say probably the number one impediment is – just to reiterate – the fact that the data is there, but it’s not fully accessible,” he concluded. “But federation is probably the best way to go forward and enable us to both access the data but interestingly, adopt new technologies as they come on board as well.”

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Grace Dille
Grace Dille
Grace Dille is MeriTalk's Assistant Managing Editor covering the intersection of government and technology.