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THE NSA EFFECT
at forward lean has some military of-
cials looking to take a page from the
U.S. intelligence community s playbook,
including the National Security Agency s
recently revealed electronic surveillance
data mining program, PRISM. Central to
the agency s program is the collection of
massive volumes of seemingly unrelated
and o en unstructured data.
"If you take the privacy concerns
o the table, and you just look at least
what people are saying the NSA is actu-
ally doing, it is absolutely the model that
the intelligence community at large and
the military users at large really need to
move to. It s being able to come up with
techniques able to look at a wide variety
of data sources and look for the hidden
correlations that are just not obvious,"
e challenge for intelligence ana-
lysts, however, is that unlike drone video
streams or mobile phone signal pat-
terns, open source data doesn t follow a
predictable pattern. " ere are patterns
there, but they are layered much deeper
than our traditional sources of data. It s
having techniques that can dig those ex-
tra layers down and nd those patterns
of communication," Cooke added.
Exelis approach focuses on mesh-
ing traditional intelligence gathering
techniques like signals intelligence with
emerging big data sources to get a clearer
picture of what s happening on the bat-
tle eld and beyond.
NSA techniques, at least those dis-
closed in media reports, also could be
applied to help automate the intelligence
gathering process while reducing man-
power to obtain the most relevant infor-
mation, Cooke argued.
"If we can help a commander weed
through hours and hours of video to get
down to the most critical 30 seconds of
video, that s a huge win," he said.
Observers stress that the services
are anxious to apply these new big data
techniques but lack the resources to do
so. " ey recognize that they re missing
subtle correlations in the data that could
tell them things that they need to know
and don t know today," Cooke said.
at deeper dig into the mountain of data
isn t just useful in combat. More mundane
military tasks such as logistics can also
bene t from applying big data techniques,
said Rich Campbell, chief federal tech-
nologist at the EMC Corp. e battle eld
is the sexy part of the picture, but "then
there s the business part, which drives the
majority of change and the majority of
savings," Campbell stressed. e logistics
piece is "low hanging fruit."
Take, for example, RFID-tagged gear
in the eld, which has to be scanned and
veri ed during inventory. During that
process, there s a small (10 to 12 percent)
chance that an RFID tag will need to be
rechecked. Predictive capabilities could
help leverage big data analytics when a
few digits are missing in a serial number,
Campbell explained. at new capability
could help avoid the need to rescan an
entire equipment shipment to nd and
correct the error.
" ings like there are where analytics
can help," Campbell said.
Commercial ventures are also pro-
viding inspiration, with companies like
FedEx and Wal-Mart sharing big data
strategies aimed at boosting e ciency.
" e military is really leveraging the
commercial enterprise space to really
understand how they re doing it and why
they re doing it," Campbell said.
"A lot of our DOD customers today
look at the big data and analytics chal-
lenges as being this massively complex
problem. Honestly, a lot of times they
already have the data. It s just how to re-
ally re ne it and get something out of it,"
e message from Campbell and other
service providers is that applying big data
techniques need not be complicated.
" ere s a lot of ways to leverage it in a
more simplistic fashion," Campbell ar-
gued. "It s not something to be afraid of." ■
lot of ways
in a more
be afraid of.
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