Govini: Great-Power Competition
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Govini: Great-Power Competition

Jim Mitre, SVP, Strategy & Analysis, Kathryn Harris, SVP, Strategy & Growth, Robert Rhea, SVP, National Security Practice, Chris Taylor, CEO and Tara Murphy Dougherty, President, National Security Practice, GoviniJim Mitre, SVP, Strategy & Analysis, Kathryn Harris, SVP, Strategy & Growth, Robert Rhea, SVP, National Security Practice, Chris Taylor, CEO and Tara Murphy Dougherty, President, National Security Practice Great-power competition—not terrorism— has reemerged as the central challenge to U.S. national security. The Department of Defense’s (DoD’s) military advantage is eroding in light of military advances made by China and Russia. By its own admission, DoD must change the way it conducts its business and make the hard tradeoffs necessary to effectively deter Chinese or Russian aggression against U.S. interests.

Reorienting an organization as massive as DoD is an ambitious endeavor. With an annual budget of over $700 billion dollars, was DoD its own nation it would rank in the top 20 countries by GDP. The sheer scale of the DoD makes change of any kind—let alone a strategic reorientation—exceedingly difficult. How does the DoD know if its resources are aligned to its strategic priorities? What enables DoD to determine the return on investment for expensive military systems? Where can DoD identify efficiencies in complex and opaque business processes? In what manner does DoD safeguard its supply chain from foreign influence?

"We believe that the smart use of data can transform the way DoD conducts business and ultimately increase security and competitiveness of the country"

The essential element to answering all of these questions is data. Realizing the utmost significance data holds, top Pentagon leaders are striving to find ways to leverage their datasets and glean valuable insights for their missions.

“We believe that the smart use of data can transform the way DoD conducts business and ultimately increase security and competitiveness of the country,” says Tara Murphy Dougherty, president of the National Security Practice at Govini. Addressing the need for data-driven security strategies, Arlington-based Govini, a data and analytics firm, helps the DoD to resolve national security problems using technology in an agile and efficient manner.

Piloting Data Science to Foster National Security

When data is considered to be a national resource it can be used as a crucial strategic asset. As the aforementioned technologies proliferate across competitors and adversaries of the United States, the speed at which the DoD must react to these changes in the landscape must also increase. To accelerate, over the past two years the U.S. national security enterprise has begun to adopt a significantly more data-centric approach. As evidence of DoD’s maturing view of data, in 2018 it hired its first-ever Chief Data Officer, industry leader Michael Conlin, to drive reform and new capabilities, like artificial intelligence and machine learning, in the cloud.

The challenge plaguing the Pentagon, common to all large-scale enterprises, is that its data environment reflects siloed organizational functions.



We do the heavy lifting of data collection and analysis to give persistent and meaningful insights to senior leaders in the national security space, helping them to focus on their mission-critical endeavors


Non-interoperable data schemas from multiple disparate systems lack common elements and formats, which makes integration difficult. Armed with its best-in-class platform solution, Govini takes a taxonomic approach to helping DoD and other national security entities unlock their data potential to enhance decision-making and resolve significant issues pertaining to national security.

“We do the heavy lifting of data collection and analysis to give persistent and meaningful insights to senior leaders in the national security space, helping them to focus on their mission-critical endeavors,” says Chris Taylor, CEO of Govini. The firm’s machine learning technology continuously works on refining the data and keeping it relevant and updated, allowing defense organizations to make use of their data to the fullest. Govini’s distinctive data analytics platform enables organizations to use its curated dataset by having it securely integrated into their own data systems and workflows.

Govini leverages cutting-edge data science and machine learning technologies that are applied to its diverse dataset - specifically manufactured and curated in context to the country’s security and defense - to deliver successful outcomes for its clients. Govini’s tech stack successfully enables analysts and decision-makers to have access to information and knowledge, rather than just loosely-connected data points. To help Pentagon leaders achieve national security goals, Govini strategically turns “industry-specific prophecies into feedback loops” as Murphy Dougherty mentions, which widens the scope of not only its offerings but also the defense operations as a whole.

Preparing for an AI-Based World

AI is already outperforming humans in many tasks, and the era of applying machine learning and AI to national defense is upon us. In 2017, China’s State Council issued the New Generation Artificial Intelligence Development Plan (AIDP), which states “AI is a strategic technology that will lead in the future; the world’s major developed countries are taking the development of AI as a major strategy to enhance national competitiveness and protect national security.” In 2019, the United States followed China’s lead when President Trump signed the “American AI Initiative,” a comprehensive plan for American leadership in the development of artificial intelligence around a national AI governance framework.

For the Pentagon’s AI to be effective, however, rich training data is requisite. DoD’s strategic priorities in which AI has high potential include, among others, protecting its supply chain and the defense innovation base, and category management for efficiently allocating and auditing the application of its significant capital. In an environment in which it is critical that every dollar be applied judiciously and there are resourcing tradeoffs associated with every decision, defense entities need the ability to picture cross-functional activities through a common lens and track them across strategy, budgeting, and execution. Effective resource management through data science is essential to U.S. global competitiveness.

Govini’s expertise in manufacturing, curating, and transforming data in its platform has enabled the company to create a comprehensive and objective picture of the U.S. federal government’s activities, associated supply chains, and other areas. Taylor notes a recent instance where Govini supported illumination of the supply chain of a major defense acquisition program; the company used its comprehensive dataset, algorithms and programmatic techniques to surface over 39,000 vendors down to the 13th tier suppliers. This level of granularity helps DoD ensure foreign suppliers are sufficiently vetted, with no “back door” exploits introduced into the supply chain. Additional case studies include supporting the Department of the Treasury, the U.S. Army, Air Force, and Navy, and the Federal Bureau of Investigation.

Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania may conjure rust belt images from the past but Govini recently established a large presence there to support these clients. “The data science and machine learning talent pool we have found is amazing,” says Taylor. In fact, Carnegie Mellon University (CMU) is consistently ranked as one of the top, if not the top, AI, automation and robotics schools in the world. For this reason Uber, Google, Facebook, Apple and many other large technology companies have quietly established significant outposts in Pittsburgh. Google’s head of AI, Andrew Moore, is the former dean of CMU and is Pittsburgh-based. Strong software engineering graduates from the University of Pittsburgh and Duquesne University also contribute to this growing technology ecosystem, according to Govini.

The Future of Enhanced Decisioning

Industries like financial services, energy, and retail have already proven that relevant datasets, when integrated into the intuitive analytics platform, help users to shift from a legacy approach of handling data to a modern analytical approach. Organizations across both defense and civilian agencies are embracing decision-grade data as a way to galvanize people around the mission at-hand, and defense agencies in particular appears to be accelerating their data-based approach to decisioning.

Instead of data being yet another complicating factor for already stressed agencies, Govini believes that agencies can “mitigate many of the most challenging and resource-consuming initial steps of data wrangling by getting started with analytics,” according to Murphy Dougherty. “We continuously create data that enhances our offerings and in turn helps national security leaders make effective decisions,” adds Taylor.

The company puts in enormous effort to manufacture, standardize, and normalize the right data along with ensuring they are linked and contextualized to client datasets. Using concept search technologies, natural language processing, and taxonomies that are populated with data in real-time, the firm helps organizations establish exact-fit data in an easy and agile fashion, with Govini’s platform visualizing results meaningfully.

Govini has positioned itself as the go-to entity for the Pentagon to streamline its data operations for both national security decisions today and for the AI defense models of the future.

- Becky Graham
    June 07, 2019