Big Data Opportunities in the Pipeline at DHS & DOJ

Tomas OKeefe_65x85Tomas O’Keefe, Consultant, Market Intelligence

At last Big data on blackboardweek’s AFCEA Homeland Security conference, information sharing and cybersecurity were some hot topics that seemed to take center stage. These are critical elements of the homeland security enterprise, tied to protecting information and ensuring it gets delivered to the right analyst, at the right time. A topic that wasn’t discussed as much, but continues to play a vital role in the federal IT landscape, is big data. I’d like to share some insights on where DHS and DOJ are looking to expand their big data capabilities, based on the sessions I attended.

The first was a panel session centered on enhancing the use of Big Data in disaster relief scenarios. Panelists included the former Commander of the Coast Guard, Admiral Thad Allen (ret.) and the Director of Enterprise Analytics for FEMA, Carter Hewgley. A point Admiral Allen drove home, was the need for government (as well as the broader industry community), to make a stronger commitment to expanding the role of data scientists. Carter Hewgley added to Admiral Thad’s point, knowledge management was incredibly important in disaster relief scenarios in order to institutionalize the knowledge of disaster professionals and supplement analytics during times of crisis.

The second big data panel session took a slightly more interactive format, with several DHS CIOs (and others) on a larger panel. During the Q & A, I was able to ask Luke McCormick of DHS, Joe Klimavicz of DOJ, and several others what are their big data pain points are. Mr. McCormick mentioned he was very concerned with improving metadata tagging, so reducing the time it would take for DHS groups to run analyses would benefit their operations. Mr. Klimavicz echoed the same sentiments, noting that DOJ has structured and unstructured data in multiple formats and he wants to get a better sense of how to dig through all the information and make sense of it to improve mission delivery. Mr. Gardner, CIO of FEMA, mentioned FEMA’s strategic plan sees data-based decision making as a cornerstone of FEMA operations going forward. Tools that enable real-time decision making across multiple domains is of major interest to the agency.

While cybersecurity and information sharing are top of mind for DHS officials moving forward, if you’re a big data vendor, you need to start a dialogue with the department right now. DHS IT leaders want analytics that help them deliver on the mission, need knowledge management solutions to capture the experience of tenured professionals on the job, and expect technology that delivers the right information to the right stakeholder, at the right time.

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About Tomas O'Keefe
Tom O'Keefe has over 10 years of market research experience as an Analyst and Consultant in the federal space. He also earned an MA in Political Science from George Mason University. He has covered both civilian and defense agencies and has presented to clients ranging from junior-level associates to executives from some of the largest Systems Integrators and contractors in the federal marketplace.

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