Today, the U.S. Department of State launched its first-ever Enterprise Data Strategy (EDS) to empower its global workforce with the tools and skills to use data as a critical instrument of diplomacy. The strategy provides the framework for how the Department will leverage data to shape American foreign policy while upholding the highest levels of scientific and data integrity. Now more than ever, evidence-based decisions are critical to protecting the values, security, prosperity, and foreign interests of the American people. In his introductory letter, Deputy Secretary for Management and Resources Brian P. McKeon reaffirmed the Biden administration’s commitment to evidence-based decision-making that empowers our world-class workforce, “Our people require accurate data at their fingertips, where they are and when they need it. To thrive in this data-powered world, our team needs the skills, expertise, and tools to turn data into insights.”
Changing global circumstances, like technological innovations, drive the need for Data Informed Diplomacy. The Department must adapt in response to these evolving realities to secure America’s position on the global stage. The EDS also satisfies several federal requirements such as the Biden Administration’s “Memorandum on Restoring Trust in Government Through Scientific Integrity and Evidence-Based Policymaking.”
Leaders and data practitioners from across the Department developed the strategy in partnership with the Office of Management Strategy & Solutions’ (M/SS) Center for Analytics (CfA), which provides data management and analytics support to the Department. The common themes identified through the year-long process, which included consultations with external chief data officers, resulted in the strategy’s vision, guiding principles, and goals and objectives.
The EDS emphasizes the cultivation of a data culture through five guiding principles where data is shared, widely applied, responsibly governed, ethically utilized, and secure. Culture change comes with challenges but is slowly moving in the desired direction. This is apparent through the popularity of the Department’s data fluency program, which helps to equip the workforce with data science knowledge, skills, and abilities. CfA is facilitating this goal through a partnership with the Department’s Foreign Service Institute’s (FSIs) School of Applied Information Technology (SAIT), The number of data-focused courses available at FSI in the past three years has grown from zero to seven. They range from foundations of data storytelling to advanced analytics and are geared toward both executives and working-level employees.
In addition to training the current workforce, the Department must recruit, hire, and retain the best data experts. A first-of-its-kind recruitment and hiring initiative specifically targeting data scientists was launched earlier this year thanks to collaboration among OMB, GSA, the Department’s Bureau of Global Talent Management, CfA, the U.S. Digital Service, and ten other federal agencies.
The EDS will ensure the workforce has access to the Department’s existing data products and encourage the joint development of new ones. This will help to break down silos, eliminate redundancy, and maximize return on investment. It also empowers employees to derive actionable insights from data as a strategic asset which should accelerate mission-centric decisions, particularly with regard to the Department’s top priorities.
To implement the strategy, the Department will provide employees with modern analytic tools such as visualization software, geospatial data capabilities, cloud platforms, and programming languages. The Department will also explore piloting new and scaling current artificial intelligence (AI) and machine learning (ML) initiatives to help inform policy and management decisions. The EDS will help provide the global workforce with the right tools, to make the right decisions, at the right time.
The development of the strategy is just the beginning, and the important work of carrying it out is already underway. The Enterprise Data Council will oversee the three-year implementation plan. Each campaign will focus on two themes that align with the Department’s highest policy priorities. When the use of data and analytics is prioritized, it helps to achieve the Department’s mission of advancing the interests of the American people, their safety, and economic prosperity.
For more information, visit www.state.gov/data-strategy and the M/SS Center for Analytics.
About the Author: Dr. Matthew Graviss is the Department’s Chief Data Officer and Managing Director of the M/SS Center for Analytics.