Can data overload in the IC be tamed?

By Mark Wisinger, senior analyst

In an era with more sensors and data than ever before, how can intelligence agencies separate the significant data from the background noise?

Data management is an enormous challenge right now in the Department of Defense and Intelligence Community, especially as the internet of things emerges onto the scene. The big data challenges are linked hand-in-hand with cloud implementation, insider threats and cybersecurity, business intelligence and traditional IT infrastructure.

This data management challenge is an opportunity for big data vendors, with defense and intelligence agencies looking to the private sector for solutions in data access and search, data labeling and filtering and other management needs.

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3 reasons why 2017 is the year for defense health IT

Lloyd McCoy Jr.dha_012417By Lloyd McCoy Jr., DOD manager

2017 promises to be a pivotal year for the Defense Health Agency and not just because MHS Genesis, the Department of Defense’s replacement electronic health record, starts rolling out next month.

Expect attention to now shift to other priorities on DHA’s plate. I’ve written about several of these drivers recently and in earlier blogs and they are just as applicable today. But a couple of recent policy changes and developments are shaping the future of military health.

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The Genesis of a New Military Health System

Lloyd McCoy Jr.DHITSConf_090616By Lloyd McCoy Jr., DOD Manager

One of the biggest IT projects in all of the Department of Defense (DOD) is the upcoming MHS Genesis, the military’s new electronic health record – set to go live in early December.

MHS stands for the Military Health System, which is comprised of the Program Executive Office for Defense Healthcare Management Systems, the Defense Health Agency, and the individual medical commands that fall under the service branches.

While much attention and focus will understandably be on the rollout of MHS Genesis in the coming months, there are other pockets of IT initiatives within MHS that will shape defense health IT for years to come.

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3 Areas Big Data is Booming for COTS Vendors

Stephanie Headshot 65x85by Stephanie Meloni, Senior Analyst

Big data and Big Dataanalytics is predicted to be a hot spot in terms of budget growth in the federal IT market. According to a recent report from the Department of Commerce Economics and Statistics Administration, the government’s principal statistical agencies spend on average 2.3 billion dollars a year gathering, processing, and disseminating data. Based on internal analysis conducted by the immixGroup Market Intelligence team, the compound annual growth rate (CAGR) of big data and analytics is estimated at 5.85% from FY14-FY17. This is due to the fact government will need to rely more on data analytics as a way to achieve their mission — with reduced budgets and staff.

Following in the footpath of some early adopters, the rest of the federal government is beginning to make investments and use big data analytics. The interest in using big data analytics for more and more applications keeps growing exponentially. For COTS vendors outside of analytics tools, big data and analytics offers many more opportunities.

Here are three other areas vendors should consider:

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WEST 2014 Conference Sheds Light on Acquisition Priorities for the Sea Services

Lloyd McCoy_65x85by Lloyd McCoy Jr., Consultant

Last week industry and government met for the largest event on the West Coast for the maritime services (Navy, Marine Corps, and Coast Guard) and the contractors that support them. Many senior military leaders attended and spoke about the direction they are headed and how industry can help. Their remarks echoed previous announcements that the U.S. as a whole (not just the military) is transitioning to face a variety of interconnected 21st Century threats. The Pacific region is a big part of the equation and since it is largely a maritime environment; the Sea Services are at the forefront.

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Which Agencies are Spending Big on Big Data?

Mohamad Elbarasse_headshot_7-23-2013_For WordPressby Mohamad ElbarasseAnalyst

As agencies take on a more data-centric focus to achieving their missions, it would appear as though FY 2014 is the year of big data and a slew of agencies have funded initiatives in play that will set the bar for what analytics can bring to the table. Agencies like DHS with tons of data are investing big to get it all under control. These investments coupled with the White House’s Open Data Policy, which dictates that agencies should be collecting or creating information in a manner that “supports the downstream information processing and dissemination activities,” signal a paradigm shift from hypothesis-driven to data-driven decision making and discovery at a federal level.

The National Science Foundation, Department of Defense, National Institutes of Health, Department of Energy, and the US Geological Survey at the Department of Interior received $200 million for research and development in the field of big data. These initiatives run the gamut from NIH’s 1000 Genomes Project that brings together the power of big data with Amazon Web Services cloud to make 200 terabytes of data on human genetic variation available to the public to the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency’s (DARPA) XDATA program. The XDATA program will address challenges, such as developing scalable algorithms for processing imperfect data in distributed data stores. DARPA plans to invest $25 million a year through 2016 in XDATA.

According to Simon Szykman, dataCIO at the Department of Commerce, information sharing should be agencies’ first priority. Speaking at an AFFIRM & GITEC event in September, Szykman stated that one of the easiest ways to make big data investments more cost effective in the long run is by thinking about information sharing early on. That means that agencies are going to need help managing, standardizing, and ensuring the interoperability of their data. Vendors with products positioned to help with those tasks should gear their messaging towards addressing those needs and emphasizing long run efficiencies. Szykman went on to say that the purpose of opening up government data is not just to increase transparency, but to allow others to find value in the data. “We haven’t cornered the market on good ideas,” said Szykman, as he further elaborated that the biggest benefits of an open data policy are the things we can’t imagine today, but that can come about by making more data available to more people.  Szykman oversees Commerce’s $2.5 billion IT budget and the agency is slated to spend over $300 million on General Purpose Data and Statistics in FY2014.

Ken Rogers, Chief Technology Strategist at the Department of State, also spoke at the event and said that “Data is the primary sustainable asset in an organization.” Therefore, the proper maintenance, security, and analysis of that data are paramount to the success of the organization. Along with data management, data integration, and information sharing requirements, agencies will be in dire need of data security solutions to protect the integrity of their data. Expect to see more agencies taking on a data-centric outlook and be sure to emphasize that getting big data right the first time around can lead to some big savings down the road.

Opportunity Alert: Homeland Security’s New Management Cube Initiative

Tomas OKeefe_65x85by Tomas O’Keefe, Senior Analyst

On Monday, October 28, at ACT-IAC’s Executive Leadership Conference, acting Deputy Secretary of DHS Rafael Borras (who has been the Undersecretary for Management for the past four years) unveiled DHS’s new initiative called the Management Cube. Effectively, the Cube represents the Department’s efforts to merge all of its back-office data into a single platform, so the agency can more effectively understand its day-to-day operations and identify areas of inefficiency that need to be addressed. DHS has been working on the Management Cube initiative for almost two years and is planning to unveil the initiative in January 2014.

Obviously, those of us in the world of federal information technology know that big data is one of the most talked about challenges for federal agencies. We’ve seen numerous big data initiatives, but it’s reassuring to see an agency with such a diverse mission portfolio as DHS finally take some concrete steps in putting big data to use. And where there are challenges for federal agencies, there are opportunities for federal contractors, particularly COTS vendors who offer business intelligence & analytics, data quality & management, and middleware and service oriented architecture (SOA) products. While the Department has been working on the initiative for two years, it is sure to uncover additional COTS product needs as it is rolled out across the Department.DHS

Think of the aim of the Management Cube this way – if there are extra dollars languishing somewhere in the DHS-enterprise, shouldn’t the Department find a way to put those dollars to use? Keith Trippie, who directs the Enterprise System Development Office up at DHS HQ, said that asking that first question led to a series of other questions that resulted in his group challenging the Department to start cleaning up its data and start running some serious analytics and developing dashboards to enhance DHS operations.

Trippie pointed out that there are challenges (remember, hear ‘challenges’ and think ‘opportunities’) remaining, among them change management and developing trust between different groups with the Department. But key IT challenges also remain – with many siloed, mission-oriented platforms built off of differing architecture, DHS is still struggling with getting the information in one place and ensuring the different types of structures of data can be analyzed as a whole. Another IT challenge is ensuring that the BI & analytics application developed to run these reports can do so quickly and effectively – a significant problem that will impede the goal of Management Cube to save DHS time and money.

It is most certainly worth it to reach out to Rafael Borras and Keith Trippie and see if you can assist them in enhancing the rollout of the Management Cube. Keep this fact in mind: DHS is an innovator among federal agencies and one of the first to truly take on an enterprise-wide big data initiative of this scale, so if you can help DHS succeed here, imagine the potential your solution could have across the federal government as a whole.

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