TAMPA, Fla. –
U.S. Central Command (USCENTCOM) hosted a virtual data symposium the first week of February 2021. More than 1,000 senior Department of Defense (DoD) data leaders as well as private-sector innovators and representatives from partner nations participated in the online event. The symposium was hosted by U.S. Army Brigadier General Jeth Rey, USCENTCOM’s Director of Command and Control, Communications and Computer Systems (J6) and Chief Information Officer.
U.S. Marine Corps (USMC) General Kenneth F. McKenzie Jr., Commander, U.S. Central Command, kicked off the symposium emphasizing the importance of leveraging data in an evolving regional and global battlefield. “We must be able to share data with partners at the speed of operations,” said McKenzie.
Participants also heard from senior leaders including Mr. David Spirk, DoD’s Chief Data Officer, who emphasized “This is an important first gathering of the joint warfighting data leaders, through the Combatant Commands to our Allies and partners.”
The theme of this symposium was “Operationalizing Data in a Geographic Combatant Command (GCC) Environment.” Discussions explored the role of data as a joint service and coalition warfighting strategic asset from the perspectives of the overall DoD enterprise, Combatant Commands, and international mission partners. “This focus here is to examine opportunities to accelerate GCC transformation to a data-centric, data-driven operating environment,” said Rey. “This is a step toward getting data-driven innovations of industry into the hands of warfighters.”
Rey further explained the advantages of the rapid transfer of data between all echelons on the battlefield. “Overall GCC situational awareness, command and control, and reaction time are greatly improved providing for a qualitative advantage over adversaries. Future interoperability must provide rapid policy-based sharing of information enabled by data tagging and metadata.”
The symposium addressed ways in which data and information will be collected, processed, and exploited to improve the quality of human decision-making. “We’ll look back on this moment and see this was one of the tipping points – that the DoD was finally getting serious about data,” said former Deputy Secretary of Defense, Robert O. Work, during his presentation.
The event was a way to promote unified efforts and partnerships toward enabling innovations in GCC technical and operational data management to fulfill the DoD digital modernization vision, goals and objectives. The symposium was best summed up by USMC Lt. Gen. Dennis Crall, Joint Staff J6 Director who stated, “I looked at the agenda, these are the right topics. I looked at the people who are invited, these are absolutely the right people. I think you have all the ingredients. What's yet to be decided is if you get real commitment and follow-through.”