The Pentagon Has Its First Chief Data Officer

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He'll be responsible for leading the Pentagon's data strategy.

The Defense Department hired its first-ever chief data officer, reinforcing the agency’s commitment to driving innovation with data.

The Pentagon tapped Michael Conlin, the former chief technology officer for DXC Technology’s public sector arm, to oversee the department’s data management and governance practices, FedScoop reported Thursday.

He started the job on July 30.

In a 2017 interview with ExecutiveGov, Conlin said the biggest obstacle he sees to agencies supporting their mission with data is accessing that data in the first place. The “vast majority” of information is locked in legacy IT systems, he said, and agencies need a more proactive approach to classifying and organizing data if they want to maximize its potential.

The hire comes as officials increasingly emphasize the importance of data to the agency’s mission. The Pentagon is investing heavily in data-driven technologies like artificial intelligence and machine learning, and the agency plans to use its much anticipated Joint Enterprise Defense Infrastructure cloud to share highly sensitive data around the world.

Pentagon Chief Management Officer Jay Gibson, who joined the department in February, has been an outspoken advocate for exploiting agency data to make more evidence-based decisions. In a conversation with Nextgov in July, Gibson said his office is combing through the agency’s existing datasets and working with different mission-specific teams to see what information is most valuable and where quality improvements can be made.