The Navy's plan to crack down on data duplication

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Tom Sasala, the Navy Department's chief data officer, said the service has been targeting duplicative data sets in financial systems.

The Navy has a lot of data, but to optimize analytics and sharing, the military service must first  figure out where data is pulling double duty. 

"We do have a lot of duplication of effort in a lot of different areas, so data is prolific," Tom Sasala, the Navy's chief data officer, said on Jan. 26 during a virtual event hosted by C4ISRNET. He noted that a single data set may get copied to multiple locations for analysis due to a lack of a centralized enterprise or shared service platform for users to access – and because the Navy's force largely doesn't have constant internet access, and satellite connectivity is often reserved for mission operations. 

While the Navy announced an initiative, called Cattle Drive, to get rid of duplicative systems in late 2020, Sasala has been working on the data counterpart of that called Supernova, which is based on the Defense Department's data strategy. 

"Our goal right now is to actually use the data to identify some of those overlaps," he said.

"And so what we're looking for is all our investments across department and Navy in data analytical capabilities, in data warehousing, in data movement ... and say, do we need all these solutions, are they functionally identical." 

Sasala said an analysis found that the service is paying for "a small number of applications that all essentially do the same thing for different people and different data" that can be solved with a "commodity sort of infrastructure." Now, the key is to target those systems for potential divestment or reinvestment with an enterprise shared service.

"And so 'do no harm' has to be our number one priority. We can't turn anything off until we can adequately replace the services and its features and its functions," Sasala said, noting the focus on figuring out  the best way to feed information into the Navy's enterprise resource planning systems without duplication. 

"Because right now, there's about 800 different systems [that] get feeds from an ERP, and have that financial management component. And do we really need that number of external kind of feeds of that specific data set?" Sasala said, adding that the Navy is validating results from its initial analysis with system owners, functional stakeholders and area managers to get a clear understanding of what the system does and whether they really need their own software. 

The goal is to push for enterprise and shared and cloud-based services – even if it's on premises – as much as possible. That runs tandem with the goal of increasing data availability, and analytical skills, for the warfighter with tools like Jupiter, the Navy's enterprise data and analytics platform. 

But Sasala said that while some investments are needed, that doesn't necessarily translate into a higher operating budget. The Navy has previously reported a projected $133 million in savings for 2022 from improving its business systems to improve effectiveness and reduce duplication.

"So I am very positive on this right now," Sasala said of the effort. "And hopefully, we can take that money when we duplicate and make a reinvestment decision or an offset that takes that money that we already have and invested into more shared services."