Big Data Initiatives in the 2014 National Defense Authorization Act

Published: July 17, 2013

Big DataCONGRESSDEFENSEJoint Information Environment (JIE)National Defense Authorization ActPolicy and Legislation

Two versions of the 2014 National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA) are presently making their way through Congress. The House version just left the Committee on Armed Services and this version of the legislation contains several provisions shaping how the Department of Defense will employ big data solutions. These provisions include directives on competing contracts for specific types of analytics software.

Two versions of the National Defense Authorization Act for 2014 are currently making their way through the respective branches of Congress.  The Senate Armed Services Committee recently completed marking-up its version of the legislation.  The House Committee on Armed Services passed its version of the legislation at the beginning of July.  These two versions will need to be reconciled and voted on before they are sent to the White House for the President’s signature.  Often, however, the proposed bills will contain provisions that make it through the process relatively unchanged.  While conceding that it is still early in the game, it can be helpful to look at the committee reports to see what technology priorities have been set out for the Department of Defense.  FIA did this back in January for the completed 2013 NDAA and published a report on our findings.  This time around I’ll get a jump on the pending 2014 legislation to give vendors a head’s up on some of the priorities that are coming down the line.  Hopefully, readers will find this information helpful when planning where they would like to focus some of their efforts in the months and years ahead.

This time around we’ll examine several provisions concerning data management and analytics tools that are in the House committee’s report.

Data Management and Protection (p. 200) – The House committee is concerned that with the emergence of the Joint Information Environment (JIE) the DoD is missing an opportunity to implement a comprehensive data management policy which ensures the standardization of data across the enterprise; thereby enhancing interoperability.  The committee recommends that “a data management and protection strategy should be a core tenet in the development and implementation of the JIE.”

My Take – To be honest, this provision surprised me.  After all, the intent behind the JIE is to enable the sharing of data across the enterprise.  So, either the substance of the JIE has not been properly communicated to Congress by the Department, or the DoD truly has not developed the comprehensive data management policy and guidelines it requires.  Should the latter be the case, it presents industry with a potential opportunity because the clarification of guidelines for data standardization will affect systems integration efforts.  More importantly from a business development perspective, it could also spur the competition of new work related to legacy systems as efforts are made to standardize data formats for interoperability.  Finally, it is worth considering that the unlocking of data from legacy systems contributes to the growth of the big data challenge across the DoD as greater data flow translates into larger pools of data.

Soft Biometrics for Non-Cooperative Identification of Personnel (pp. 97-98) – This provision contains an explicit directive for the DoD to acquire unconventional advanced analytics tools.  I write “unconventional” because the committee specifies that the DoD should examine all biometrics modalities as it advances its capabilities, including so-called “soft” biometrics (e.g., gait, keystroke, analysis of body markings) that “could also be useful in identifying specific individuals and could be done from stand-off distances.”

My Take – This is one of those clear-cut cases when the committee is encouraging the DoD to make greater investment in specialized analytics software.  Naturally, work would also be required to integrate said analytics programs into existing biometrics architectures.

Evaluation and Assessment of the Distributed Common Ground Station (p. 106) – In this section, the committee directs the “Under Secretary of Defense for Acquisition, Technology, and Logistics to conduct an analysis of commercial link analysis tools that could be used to meet the requirements of each of the service versions of the Distributed Common Ground Station program and … initiate a request for proposals.”

My Take – Opportunity doesn’t get much clearer than this does it?  A commercial link analysis tool is another way of saying data integration and visualization software.  Makers of this of this kind of software should be on the lookout for procurements in FY 2014 and those with a finger on the pulse of the USDAT&L should keep an eye peeled for the results of the analysis that the committee requests.

As we can see from these sections and provisions, the members of the House committee are firmly focused data collection, management, and analysis.  The DoD has, of course, also trained its eye on enhancing its protection and use of data to accomplish its mission.  The House committee’s report clearly shows that the Congress will continue to urge the department to use big data tools and solutions in any way it can.  In this sense, Congress itself, in addition to market forces and technological change, will continue to drive DoD big data spending.