New data strategy combats modern threats, says Army's G-6

By Thomas Brading, Army News ServiceSeptember 19, 2019

New data strategy combats modern threats, says Army's top info chief
Lt. Gen. Bruce T. Crawford, the U.S. Army chief information officer, talked to senior leaders from all three components of the Army during the U.S. Army Reserve Chief Information Officer/Signal Workshop in the Office of the Chief of the Army Reserve ... (Photo Credit: U.S. Army) VIEW ORIGINAL

ARLINGTON, Va. -- The Army's chief information officer rolled out a revised, holistic approach for data assets Monday, along with cyber's role within the new era of great-power competition.

Lt. Gen. Bruce Crawford, the Army's CIO/G-6, laid out the Army's blueprint to overcome data problems while speaking at the Association of the U.S. Army's "Hot Topics" forum on cyber and networks.

The updated strategic principles of data include being visible, accessible, understandable, trusted, and interoperable -- and a new one, security.

The purpose of the updated strategy, based on the original 2016 data strategy, is to communicate the Army's vision for network users to make quick decisions interchangeably and understand the Army's goals, especially in a modern world with near-peer competitors.

"Regardless of where our data is, it's got to be interoperable," Crawford said. "And, ultimately it's got to be secure."

Crawford said delivering a network in the era of great-power competition will be "fundamentally different than anything we've done before."

The new strategy is currently awaiting approval. Like many of the Army's modernization goals, he said, the data principles will take a holistic approach to synchronize cyber efforts from multiple IT techniques into a single, cohesive plan.

In the coming months, Crawford hopes to voice upcoming data metrics so they're measurable, and use the new data as a resource for the Army over time. He said this will be increasingly vital as cyber warfare becomes pivotal to future battlefield operations.

The 2016 strategy describes the Army's vision and goals for establishing a solid foundation for sharing data, information and IT services across the Army -- extending into the joint information environment.

Crawford said a change in the upcoming strategy is assigning standards to each element to make data more visible. The goal of making data visible is to enable authorized users to discover authoritative data, information, and IT services.


The Army has structured and unstructured data in various states of completion, Crawford said.

The goal of making data accessible is to provide all credentialed consumers access to authoritative data, information, and IT services, according to the 2016 strategy, that are commonly supported access methods in accordance with law.

Once data is accessible and structured, it has to be understandable, he said.

The goal of making data understandable is to ensure that a data asset is usable by known and unanticipated authorized consumers, through development and use of shared vocabularies.


One example of untrusted data, Crawford said, is how "deep fake" videos have planted the seeds of doubt in viewers.

"I think about the generational transformations" where there is a growing distrust over "what used to be norms," Crawford said. "If you combine that with untrusted data," viewers will question what they're viewing.

"Now you're starting to impact operations," he added.

The goal of making data trusted consists of the following: ensure secure access; establish known pedigree and security level of data; and provide information from an approved authoritative source, the 2016 strategy reads.


The latest addition to the strategy -- security -- comes in lieu of cyber's role in the era of great power competition.

The threat of near-peer competitors is outlined in the National Defense Strategy, which refocused the U.S. military from counterinsurgency toward strategic competitors, such as Russia and China.

Regarding near-peer competition, "it's not just about who gets there first," Crawford said. When in the context of innovation, it's about who's able to capture that technology and evolve that technology over time.

The four data characteristics of great-power competition include: speed, race for talent, defending the cyber supply chains, and acknowledging the capabilities and intent of peer adversaries.

Speed "enables our warfighters, whether they're sitting in the Pentagon at the enterprise or somewhere down at the tactical edge, to decide and act faster than peer adversaries," he said.

The second characteristic of this new era is the race for talent. Crawford said the Army is unable to change its data culture without solving its race for talent.

This includes the need for computer scientists, data analysts, data strategists, contract writers "proficient in writing cloud and AI contracts," and lawyers "who understand ethics associated with AI," he said.

The race for talent is "foundational to our ability to deliver the network of the future," he said.

The third characteristic is "understanding the capability and intent of peer adversaries," he said, especially in regard to cyber supply chains and how they're handled by contracted vendors.

In April, industry leaders spoke to Congress members and said cybersecurity has been targeted by nation-state hackers after contracted suppliers unsuccessfully monitored their own supply chains, causing wide-spread malicious attacks, and theft of U.S. economic and national security secrets.

Crawford said the Army plans to take a "holistic approach" to combat the issue of supply chains, by partnering with the defense industrial base.

"Among the hardest thing we're going to implement in the next 10 years is the data strategy," Crawford said. "It's going to require a cultural change."

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