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Military Goes Meta

By Dennis McCafferty Print this article Print

Making sense of data from disparate sources can be a matter of national security.

The Department of Defense (DOD) is using technology solutions to serve communities of interest. These communities need ways for their officers to manage semantically complex streams of communications-based data, as well as to get the many databases that are related to their mission to interact in a way that closely approximates the way people use the Internet.

Fighting wars and pursuing terrorism threats on a multinational playing field—where a myriad of languages, dialects and cultures collide—requires U.S. intelligence to receive and interpret thousands of messages each day. Often, U.S. analysts located all over the world are working to piece together what’s hoped to be a fruitful lead. Some of these communities may be dealing with up to 500 sources of authoritative data, all of which are currently conveyed in more than 40 different dialects or languages.

This is where next-generation IT comes into play, through the Department of Defense Net-Centric Data Strategy and the Department of Defense Discovery Metadata Specification. This approach seeks to use metatags within the endless stream of communications to allow swifter, more effective searches for critical information.

Traditional methods require sifting through document after document in their entirety, and that process would significantly slow the government’s efforts to thwart a potential attack on U.S. troops.

The need for better technological solutions to help manage communications-based intelligence data extends to the scenario of planning a U.S. attack on an enemy target in Iraq. Currently, the military must interpret data relating to weapons, geography, target specifics and the presence of civilians. In homeland security or humanitarian assistance scenarios, they often need to coordinate such data with that presented by nongovernmental organizations.

“We’re not able to share and fuse information from these various sources of data as seamlessly as we’d like to,” says Leslie Winters, division chief for Joint Data and Services with the Joint Forces of Command, which is based in Norfolk, Va. “So the DOD is taking advantage of Web-based technologies and metadata tagging to get the best information we can from all these data sources in a timely manner.

“Many of these systems are integrated in a rigid, point-to-point manner that does not allow us to rapidly adjust to new war-fighting requirements and new data sources in the same manner as can be done using Web-based technologies. If you go on a travel site to book a trip, for example, the site can provide information from all sorts of databases to immediately get you the information you need. That’s what we’re looking to do with our systems.”

This article was originally published on 2009-04-22
Dennis McCafferty is a freelance writer for Baseline Magazine.
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