Federal Chief Data Officers (CDOs) are the stewards of the government’s most vital asset, data. These leaders strive to improve the management, use, protection, dissemination, and generation of data in government decision-making. On June 24, a panel of Federal CDOs, on an AFFIRM webinar, discussed the challenges they face when dealing with data and the importance of data governance and management.

Data is a fundamentally important asset, but it still comes with its challenges. Federal CDOs face a significant challenge: providing data to those that will need it, people who can pull actionable deeds from that information.

“We need to get that data from where it is and into the hands of operators that can do something with it,” said Mike Horton, CDO for the Department of Homeland Security’s (DHS) Office of the CIO. “We also need to push data up to those in a leadership position to aid in decision-making processes and prioritization.”

Additionally, data has been sorted and gathered for years; identifying where and what that data is, becomes a challenge. At DHS, for example, to resolve this issue, the agency has gone on an inventory overhaul to facilitate discussions among the agency on where specific data is located so that it can be used to meet mission needs. But as more information is collected, this challenge increases. Therefore, CDOs like Horton expressed the importance of data governance and management to ensure that the work currently being done with data is not pushed aside by the data coming in.

The Federal Data Strategy (FDS) becomes a crucial aid in implementing important data governance and management. The FDS encompasses a 10-year vision for how the Federal Government will accelerate the use of data to deliver on mission, serve the public, and steward resources while protecting security, privacy, and confidentiality.

“The mission of the FDS is to leverage the value of Federal data for mission, service, and the public good by guiding the Federal Government in practicing ethical governance, conscious design, and a learning culture,” said Kirsten Dalboe, CDO at the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission.

The FDS guides agencies of all backgrounds to move forward effectively in their data usage. For example, the FDS emphasizes the importance of a comprehensive data inventory and how to manage it effectively, from detailing what community needs the data to how it can best serve wide-ranging solutions.

However, according to Thomas Sasala, SES, CDO at the Navy Department, the FDS applies to the Department of Defense (DoD) very broadly. But the challenge they face as a department is the size and scope of the data they obtain. Therefore, the DoD delivered a data strategy with the same foundational principles of the FDS to fit the DoD’s needs.

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