Outgoing Intelligence Community Data Chief outlines upcoming data strategy


The intelligence community is crafting a new data strategy for the first time since 2017, with a focus on building a data-savvy workforce well-equipped to take advantage of a growing deluge of information that intelligence agencies collect and produce.

Intelligence agencies have made “great progress” since the first data strategy was released in 2017, according to Nancy Morgan, who just retired as the intelligence community’s chief data officer. Her last day was April 29, and the Office of the Director of National Intelligence has yet to choose her replacement.

“We’ve made significant improvements to what we’ve been doing with data lifecycle management since publishing the first IC data strategy in 2017,” Morgan said in an April 28 interview on All About Data and Inside. the IC. “We think we’ve done a lot of work to improve sharing and saving, but there’s still a lot to do.”

Data managers at the 18 intelligence agencies are focused on using automation to do more data preparation, Morgan said. The goal is to give analysts more time to “do higher-order stuff” rather than rudimentary tasks like data markup.

“We are collecting and producing more information than ever before, IC is launching more collection capabilities than ever before at astonishing volumes, certainly since I started my career over 30 years ago,” said Morgan. “It’s amazing the amount of information we collect. This therefore creates a data volume challenge.

The ODNI is also updating the IC IT Enterprise Strategy, or “ICITE,” a major guiding document for how intelligence agencies will use IT in the years to come. The work is led by Adele Merritt, Director of Information for the Intelligence Community.

The new IT strategy will be key to “enhancing critical data management capabilities to achieve our goals,” Morgan said.

Intelligence community CDOs also seek to create more interoperability between intelligence agencies and the broader Department of Defense. Morgan said leaders wanted to share successful approaches across organizations.

“How do we integrate and involve multidisciplinary approaches that solve CI’s most complex and emerging data challenges?” ” she says. “We encounter new data challenges every day in every area.”

But beyond technology, a major element of the future data strategy is the workforce. Morgan said spy agencies are not just focused on hiring highly sought-after data scientists, but also on training the existing workforce to be more data savvy.

“How can we increase data acumen and craftsmanship, not only attracting but also developing, developing and resourcing the data savvy workforce?” she says. “So not just the talent we recruit, but the workforce we already have. How do we give people the chance to develop new skills and make them even more powerful and valuable to the community?”

Career pivots

According to Morgan, IC data leaders seek to create opportunities for intelligence professionals to begin learning new skills related to digital technologies, data and cybersecurity.

“It’s really powerful when our domain experts learn some of the fundamental skills to work with technology, work with automation, work with artificial intelligence, machine learning, be matched with data scientists and engineers data,” she said.

According to Morgan, the focus is not just on developing data professionals, but on building data skills in mission, business and policy areas, including acquisition, contracts, privacy and civil liberties, legal divisions and finance.

“Frankly, it’s supervisors, managers, leaders, senior executives at all levels of the organization,” she said. “Are we asking the right questions about the data when it’s presented to us? Do we understand the data that drives our decision-making and speak the words data-driven decision-making, but how do we put that into practice? »

Morgan noted that the National Defense Authorization Act for fiscal year 2022 requires the Office of Personnel Management to establish new occupational series not only for “data science” but also for “data management.” data”.

“I was really proud to have helped influence some of the wording on this, because while I absolutely want to have a solid data science framework, you need the full field of data management,” said she declared. “You need data managers, data policy experts, in addition to these data scientists and data engineers.”

The ODNI is also preparing to conduct the pilot phase of a new public-private talent exchange. It will allow intelligence officers to work temporarily in the private sector, and vice versa. The pilot phase will allow details over six months, according to Morgan.

The pilot phase will include specific focus areas, including professionals working in data, as well as a category for artificial intelligence and machine learning, according to Morgan.

“Launching the pilot is a bit complicated, you have to solve some of the security issues by solving some of the acquisition and legal issues,” she said. “But our goal is really to help intelligence officers and private sector colleagues better understand each other’s mission and landscape, inject diverse thinking and gain new insights, and hopefully create a more two-way flow of talent and ideas.”

She also said it could help instill a culture where there is more back and forth between government and the private sector.

“I don’t know if people will have the same kind of career trajectory that happens more just in government or just in the private sector,” Morgan said. “Hopefully we’ll see more movement back and forth and more continuous movement over someone’s career. And again, selfishly, for me, it helps grow our digital data and cyber savvy workforce with real world experiences.

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