Navy CDO Sasala says service has a ‘massive’ data duplication problem

The service has missed a six-month target to create an inventory of its data.
Tom Sasala at the 2017 Digital Transformation Summit. (FedScoop)

The Navy will spend the rest of 2021 inventorying its data and solidifying management roles and responsibilities because making department-wide data policy is currently daunting, said Chief Data Officer Tom Sasala on Thursday.

Like other departments, the Navy is drawing on the Federal Data Strategy 2020 Action Plan and its Department of Defense Data Strategy Implementation Plan to focus its efforts. But the department didn’t meet the 2020 Action Plan’s six-month target for inventorying its data because of its size and scope, Sasala said.

Just how quickly the action will be completed is unclear because data quality and, more specifically, duplicate sets of low-quality data remain a problem for the Navy.

“We’re finding just massive, rampant data duplication,” Sasala said, during an AFFIRM event. “And so that’s actually hurting us much more than the quality itself.”


The data exists across multiple systems, and users have been allowed to “quote unquote innovate” with it without the Navy having a handle on its pedigree or provenance, he added.

Sasala said his priority is identifying “authoritative” datasets and where they come from while establishing who can use them and for what purposes.

Previously the Navy sought to establish authoritative systems, but not all data in a system is authoritative for the purpose the system was created. For instance, the Navy Enterprise Resource Planning financial management system serves as a general ledger for components, but not all users or even the department’s organizational structure.

At the same time, the Navy has created deputy data officer positions for the Navy and Marine Corps, which didn’t previously exist, and is working on establishing associate data officers for every command. Fortunately most commands already had associate data officers acting under different titles like “data analytics for the command” or “command data officer,” confusing because the acronym is CDO.

Sasala is in the process of appointing people to those roles and delegating statutory responsibilities from the OPEN Government Data Act to them, as well as creating a mechanism for holding them accountable for the work.


The Navy has also taken “great strides” injecting data and data professionals into its acquisition review process, known as Gate 6 reviews.

“Rather than allowing something to go into production that doesn’t have APIs and it doesn’t have data standards and is a closed ecosphere — that we can’t get access to the data and all this other stuff — we’ll have some say in some regard about whether or not we want to make that investment,” Sasala said.

This story was featured in FedScoop Special Report: Government Powered by Data - A FedScoop Special Report

Latest Podcasts