In early November, the U.S. Department of Defense released its 2023 Data, Analytics, and AI Adoption Strategy. The goal of the documentation is to unify previous strategic guidance and enable stronger alignment and synchronization to scale advanced capabilities for use across the enterprise.

The Pentagon has been investing in AI for 60 years and these latest efforts are a continuation of that commitment. Just as important as those investments is the Pentagon’s ability to implement the technology and truly take advantage of its power.

To that end, the newest document curated by the Pentagon’s Chief Digital and AI Office focuses on accelerating data, analytics, and AI that will apply to all DoD components. One of the most vital elements of the strategy is the implementation and adoption of a data-centric approach.

Data is the fuel behind AI and must be utilized effectively to deliver success for AI-focused DoD missions.

What the new strategy means for DoD

On the heels of the White House’s Executive Order on Safe, Secure, and Trustworthy Artificial Intelligence, the DOD will have an immense amount of opportunity and guidance to face any AI technology challenges and agency implementation.

The DOD’s Data, Analytics, and AI Adoption Strategy has set guardrails for the Department to ensure ethical and secure use of advanced technology by employing an agile approach to adoption – this prioritizes speed of delivery, continuous learning, and responsible AI development. The strategy will also work to accelerate the adoption of advanced data, analytics, and AI technologies.

Learning how to properly approach and utilize data in motion presents an unprecedented opportunity to equip defense leaders with the data they need to make better decisions faster. Within the strategy, the DOD notes that the full promise of data, analytics, and AI is not the exclusive responsibility of a single organization or program – it requires a concerted effort by every unit, leader, servicemember and partners and allies across the globe.

A proper data management solution that can handle the coordination and sharing of data in motion between these groups will provide success as it enables teams to trust their data while having full transparency and access to key assets, wherever and whenever needed. As a result of implementing this strategy, DOD leaders and warfighters will be able to make rapid, well-informed decisions.

These decisions will be made by expertly leveraging high-quality data, advanced analytics, and AI as part of a continuous, outcome-driven, and user-focused feedback cycle. A balance of speed, caution and proper use of trusted data in AI innovation is necessary to stay ahead of our country’s adversaries.

Open data ‘lakehouses’ for trusted AI

Data is a critical component of AI and it will be an integral part of the DoD’s AI adoption strategy and government’s AI projects moving forward. Due to this fact, the organization, cleanliness and trustworthiness of the data is a must for success. By utilizing a successful data management strategy, the DOD can take full advantage of trusted AI – this technology is only as good as the data it is trained on, and proper data management is key to having clean data that can be used for mission success.

Through the use of data “lakes”, or centralized repositories that allow for the storing of structured and unstructured data, AI can perfect the process and produce the most effective, dependable results. So-called data lakehouses facilitate data literacy and data-driven operations by enhancing trust in data through controlled governance.

An open data lakehouse for trusted AI can increase flexibility to expand technology and analytics, while making the data more accessible, providing self-service analytics, ensuring data quality and simplifying data security.

Sorting and organizing clean, aligned data through a data lakehouse strengthens AI processes by providing the technology with trusted information. Teams must leverage a data management solution, especially one that is a hybrid platform designed for freedom to access any cloud, analytics and data.

A hybrid approach provides optimal performance, scalability, and security for faster time-to-value and increased IT control. It can also eliminate costly data silos, prevent lock-in to proprietary formats, and eradicate resource contention – all users can take advantage of a shared data experience in order to enhance the AI process and journey.

Outlook with the prioritization of AI

The DOD’s CDAO will expand upon the strategy with implementation guidance and follow-on actions to ensure and assess progress towards the Department’s strategic goals. One of the issues the Department is working to tackle is the current talent gap associated with the teams who will be supporting AI-related efforts and the strategy’s goals.

The need for data scientists and engineers is increasingly growing; as of now, there are not enough of them. The Department and other organizations harnessing generative AI are already prioritizing hiring experts in the field. The DOD’s CDAO released their “Digital On-Demand” plan – an initiative to accelerate AI knowledge by providing access to the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) Horizon’s library of learning resources for the DOD enterprise. This is a strong step in the right direction.

The most powerful force on Earth is a machine-enabled human that can be brought to bear and solve complex problems – AI is just that and must be responsibly and diligently used as such. AI is only as strong as the data it utilizes, so having the proper tools in place to allow defense teams to pull essential information, wherever and whenever, will enable their AI tools to make informed decisions more efficiently.

Rob Carey is president of Cloudera Government Solutions.

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