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Predictive Analytics Use at the Department of Defense


Back in September, an organization at the National Defense University called the Center for Technology and National Security Policy published a research paper entitled Policy Challenges of Accelerating Technological Change: Security Policy and Strategy Implications of Parallel Scientific Revolutions. Looking past the long title, one finds an in-depth consideration of the implications of emerging technologies for U.S. national security and the DoD. Considering the CTNSP is part of the defense establishment, I believe it is worth taking a few minutes to examine what the authors say, particularly since their comments fit seamlessly with the recently announced Defense Innovation Initiative (DII). Papers like this can point to areas of investment and in a time of falling budgets, any insight is welcome.

The report discusses more subjects than I can cover here, so in today’s post I’ll zero in on its comments about big data analytics. Use of big data analytics in the DoD is nothing new. In fact, based on recent contract spending data (see chart below), we can see that defense customers spent nearly $138 million on big data analytics over the five years from fiscal 2010 to fiscal 2014.


Big data analytics in this context are defined as advanced analytics programs offering visualization and modeling capabilities that enable statistics-based prediction/forecasting. Think Mathematica, MATLAB, Splunk, Statistica, Tableau, etc. and you have an idea of the programs included in this data.

According to the CTNSP report, employing these kinds of analytics on a vastly greater scale will be the key to controlling and exploiting the data that defense organizations will be gathering from the expansion of unmanned systems, robotics, and the Internet Protocol-enabled “Internet of Things.” The uses for such analytics include the analysis of intelligence data, cyber security, and the transition to a “health maintenance-based, rather than a disease-based medical model,” that will enhance the operational readiness of U.S. military personnel. The report’s recommendations have a clear implication – that the DoD should greatly ramp up its spending on predictive analytics and the training of its personnel to use them.
In recent years, however, just the opposite has been taking place. Examining the data presented above from the perspective of spending per fiscal year (see chart below), we see that defense spending on PA peaked at $42 million in FY 2012 and has declined since.

Undoubtedly the recent pressure placed on DoD’s budget by sequestration is the primary reason for reduced spending on PA. The question is will this trend continue. My guess would be no, for the simple reason that the DoD cannot afford to neglect developing its PA capabilities. To do so at a time when more data is coming at defense analysts than ever before would be folly. Add the increasing use of automated systems to the mix and the answer is obvious – the DoD must spend more on PA. Currently the department is in a period of retrenchment as it struggles with new budget realities. Once this retrenchment has run its course, defense customers are likely to turn their attention back to acquiring PA capabilities. The DII points the way forward in this respect and for industry partners it’s a welcome signpost of spending ahead.


IRS Could Save Millions with Better Software License Management

In late September, the Treasury Inspector General for Tax Administration (TIGTA) released a report identifying between $81 million and $114 million wasted because of “inadequate management of server software licenses.”

Software license management is part of an effective and efficient overall IT management program and is crucial to maintaining and supporting IRS business operations and taxpayer services. TIGTA conducted the audit of server software license management to assess IRS’ performance in this area of IT and to include their findings in their FY 2014 Annual Audit Plan.

TIGTA found that IRS’ management of server software licenses is not adequate and does not meet industry best practices.

Admittedly, software license management is difficult. However, it is a critical part of software asset management which involves managing, controlling, and protecting an organization’s software assets. Proper management of software licenses helps to minimize risks by ensuring that licenses are used in compliance with licensing agreements and cost-effectively deployed.

TIGTA has been conducting a number of IRS audits related to software management over the last year due to the complexity of the IRS software license environment. TIGTA carried out three separate audits: desktop and laptops, mainframes, and servers. In the two prior audits, TIGTA found that IRS did not:

  • Adequately perform software license management.
  • Adhere to federal requirements and recommended industry best practices.
  • Have enterprise-wide or local policies, procedures, and requirements for software license management.
  • Have defined roles and responsibilities and a centralized organizational structure for managing software licenses.
  • Use specialized software license tools designed to be the repository for software and software license deployment.
  • Have an accurate inventory of software and related licenses that contains licensing models applicable to each software product which links data on the licenses purchased and deployed.

IRS has been working to correct the above findings.

This most recent TIGTA audit focused exclusively on management of server software licenses and took place from May 2013 to March 2014.

TIGTA found the IRS does not effectively manage server software licenses. According to TIGTA findings:  

  • The IRS does not have defined policies and procedures or roles and responsibilities for server software license management.
  • The IRS does not use software license tools and does not maintain server license inventories in accordance with federal requirements and industry best practices.

TIGTA found that the IRS did not have license documentation for 11 out of 23 products reviewed. Additionally, for 15 of those software products, the IRS did not have documentation to track the number of licenses purchased versus the number deployed.

For IBM software products, the IRS did not have licenses for 43 products which cost approximately $1 million to $1.4 million per product. But IRS took issue with this finding, responding that TIGTA misinterpreted the licenses and what constitutes usage of perpetual licenses.

TIGTA recommended that the IRS include server software management in its enterprise-wide software management program currently under development. Better overall software license management at IRS would reduce IT risks, as well as provide cost savings.

IRS management agreed with the recommendation, and server software is already being considered as a component of the enterprise-wide software management program. Additionally, an Enterprise Software

Governance Board and Working Group have been established to develop a standardized process for ensuring consistency in asset management across the enterprise.