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CHIPS Articles: Knowledge management symposium highlights importance of information sharing in support of military objectives

Knowledge management symposium highlights importance of information sharing in support of military objectives
By DISA News - May 25, 2018
Today’s military operations require the warfighter to access accurate, authoritative information quickly and easily.

The DOD and Federal Knowledge Management (KM) Symposium, hosted by the Defense Information Systems Agency (DISA), brought together hundreds of federal, academic, and private sector experts eager to discover and discuss information-sharing solutions for the modern warfighter.

Held at the Baltimore Convention Center May 15-17, the governmentwide KM event included keynote speeches by knowledge leaders from Amazon and the Armed Forces Communications and Electronics Association (AFCEA); speakers from nearly a dozen federal agencies; and panels of experts from DOD, academia, and industry who shared KM best practices.

“An effective leader allows people to manage their time doing information sharing, collaborating, and forming networks,” said Stewart MacLeod with the United Kingdom Ministry of Defence regarding the importance of KM. “You can’t force someone to share knowledge — you must encourage them, make them want to share their knowledge without ridicule or favor.”

Many speakers said managing information is the most pressing challenge. They articulated the need for strategic collection and data dissemination.

“Metadata is a key enabler,” said Antonio de Frutos, an information manager at Joint Forces Command Naples, Italy for NATO. He explained the value of information standardization, information assurance, and protection.

“We need to rely on documents and policies so that we all follow the same framework — information needs design,” he said.

Army Lt. Col. Joseph Anderson, counter-weapons of mass destruction planner for Special Operations Command, discussed the challenges of finding and using data for DOD’s operational needs. Anderson said KM provides the means for expedient data analysis in military operations. A better strategy is created when combatant commanders have significant operational data such as attack locations, times, and patterns, he said.

“We spend 80 percent of our fight [as analysts] finding the data,” Anderson said. “I, and the other analysts, want to spend less time searching for where the data is stored and focus more time analyzing the data needed.”

Mark Patrick, chief of the Information Management Division for the Joint Staff, agreed. He explained by organizing information effectively, “we are facilitating the decision process.” He remarked that improved KM allows joint staff members like himself “to make better decisions for my neighbor’s kid who is deployed.”

Shellie Glass, the chief knowledge officer from U.S. Southern Command, and Frank Simonds Jr., vice deputy chief of staff for command information at North American Aerospace Defense Command and U.S. Northern Command, used an anecdote to illustrate the challenges of sharing data between entities in an emergency.

They described a hurricane, which was U.S. Southern Command’s responsibility until it reached Florida. Once on the continent, it was U.S. Northern Command’s responsibility, and a vast amount of information needed to be passed to them, said Glass.

“We draw lines on a map (to indicate areas of responsibility), but Mother Nature doesn’t care,” said Simonds.

Retired Marine Lt. Gen. Robert M. Shea, president and chief executive officer of AFCEA, closed the event by touching on several key architectural aspects of KM.

“Information has been identified as a source of national power. How do you operationalize and maximize its impact?” he asked participants.

Shea said effective KM improves clarity, situational awareness, context, understanding, and intent. It establishes the basis for either decisive action or inaction.

He also advocated for information-management policies, processes, and technology to be scalable, able to support organizations in remote environments, and able to provide decision makers access to relevant, organized information in timely manner and useful format.

Bill Balko, chief of DISA’s Knowledge Management Branch, said feedback from event participants was positive. The agency has already received several requests from international, U.S. government, and private sector KM practitioners to expand the scope of topics.

“DISA is already preparing for next year’s event,” he said.

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