JOINT BASE SAN ANTONIO-RANDOLPH, Texas – The Department of Defense’s Data Strategy describes an ambitious approach for transforming the Department into a data-driven organization and emphasizes the need to work closely with users in the operational community, particularly the warfighter.
Air Education and Training Command officials continue to refine an operational approach that links data standards and analytics within the command and aligns the data with DoD systems to enable digital age training, education, and development to ultimately produce the most competitive Airmen possible.
“We must treat our data as a strategic asset and drive towards becoming a data-centric organization that uses data at speed and scale to fuel advanced analytics and artificial intelligence capabilities to generate operational advantage and increase efficiency,” said Gerald VanSickle, command data officer for AETC. “Integration of our data with DAF systems is critical to AETC and the entire Air Force as we make the cultural shift from the ‘need to know’ to the ‘responsibility to provide.’ This means shifting from a default position of withholding information and requiring justification to provide data to other users across the command, to a default position of providing information to other users across the command except where restricted by law, policy, or mission need.”
With that approach in mind, the command held a Data Transformation Plan Review and Strategic Data Steward Conference Apr. 3-7, which was co-hosted by AETC A3/6’s Data Team in partnership with the AETC/A9 Studies and Analysis Squadron’s Command Analytic Office (CAO).
"As Chief Master Sgt. of the Air Force Bass is fond of saying, our Airmen are the Air Force's greatest asset,” said Lt. Col. Marcus McNabb, HQ AETC Studies and Analysis Squadron commander. “This conference, and the broader partnership between the data and analytic offices, reinforces that notion by ensuring AETC produces Airmen with the right skillsets in the right quantity at the right time. A key aspect of that mission is harnessing the power of the command's data and using analytics to turn that data into decision-quality information relevant to the decisions being made across the command at all echelons."
The AETC data transformation plan will also include avenues to provide critical feedback both during implementation and through operations sustainment enabling continual process improvement.
“To maximize effectiveness of our resources, we deliberately ensured that our approach addressed the AETC operational approach vision and maintained alignment with both the DoD and DAF Data Strategy,” VanSickle said. “Alignment with the DoD and DAF data message is critical to ensure we can leverage the work of our DoD and DAF teammates while avoiding unnecessary duplication of effort.”
The use of data to further initiatives tied to artificial intelligence is also a part of the future plan.
“Some examples of ways we can use data to fuel analytics is in the ability to look at effectiveness of changes in a course syllabus longitudinally throughout the pipeline, collecting data on how individuals learn to build artificial intelligence for adaptive learning, and supporting analyses on selection to improve career field training success and reduce attrition,” said Dr. Lisa Tripp, part of AETC/SAS’s CAO team.
Identifying a team of mission level ‘data stewards’ across HQ AETC and the Big Six (Air University, Air Force Recruiting Service, 2d Air Force, 19th Air Force, 502d Air Base Wing, and 59th Medical Wing) who will collaborate in strategic data transformation discussions and lead various data efforts within their respective mission areas to operationalize and sustain the plan was also an outcome from the conference, VanSickle noted.
“Finalization of this plan will guide MAJCOM resourcing and task prioritization efforts with the ability to tangibly measure progress,” he said.
The Command’s operational approach to data transformation is based on three primary objectives:
Manage Data: Manage, govern, transform, and institutionalize Enterprise Data Management (EDM), to achieve enterprise-wide data visibility and accessibility through efforts like establishing an AETC data inventory and, to the maximum extent practicable, cataloguing that data in the DAF Enterprise Data Catalog. This includes establishment and implementation of overarching EDM policy and guidelines to leverage data as a strategic asset.
Operationalize Data: Operationalize AETC’s data environment to enable ‘anytime-anywhere’ access to data across the consumption continuum to achieve data driven decisions at speed and scale for operational advantage.
Advance Data Analytics: Harness advanced analytics including artificial intelligence and machine learning to enable predictive and prescriptive analytics to optimize production and increase mission effectiveness by answering questions about what is likely to happen, what can be done to make things happen, and how to take advantage of opportunities or mitigate risks as events unfold.
“This effort will benefit users across the command by enabling their ability to access and integrate data from multiple authoritative data sources in a much simpler, faster, and broader manner than is possible using today’s fragmented approach to data management,” VanSickle said.