Breaking down borders during crisis response

When disaster strikes, horrific images of the damaged environments and upsetting stories of the lives impacted and lost flood media networks across all platforms. We are lucky to live in a world where there are thousands of organizations and their dedicated employees who are among the first to respond to the devastated locations. However, it is important to also note that everyday citizens are also anxious and curious as to how they can help whether on the ground or from a distance. We have seen, disaster after disaster, everyday citizens from around the world coming together to show support through monetary donations, canned food and clothing drives, and even hashtags.

41hB8s8gCIL._SY344_BO1,204,203,200_.jpgSuzanne Bernier’s book, Disaster Heroes, captures the incredible journeys of everyday citizens who assist in a crisis situation. Bernier shares the stories of a man in Louisiana raising funds to send a fire truck to replace damaged equipment from 9/11 to a New York City Fire Department in Brooklyn, to a Pennsylvania-based drilling company sharing valuable knowledge and equipment with the 2010 Chilean Mine Collapse effort to extract the 33 trapped miners, to a Hudson River ferry captain acting on his immediate instincts and professional experience to aid in several relief efforts. The book captures an important theme seen amongst both formal and informal actors in crisis response:

 “There are no borders when it comes to disasters. We’re all in this together.”

This mantra is what demonstrates the goodness in our globalized society and I would argue it also illustrates the necessity of cooperation in crisis response. As people from all over the world aim to assist a crisis-impacted community, the borders, whether they are geographical, cultural, functional, or temporal, should not disrupt effective cooperation and instead should foster partnership and support.

What physical or conceptual borders have you experienced that have challenged effective cooperation in the crisis environment?

Students Get a Taste of Government Analytics at IDB Hosted Panel

By IDB Guest Blogger: Gail Bamford, SAS

When Tom Davenport and D.J. Patil suggested in their article published in Harvard Business Review that the data scientist is the “sexiest profession of the 21st century,” these in-demand professionals became part of the discussion surrounding the big data ground swell.

On April 10, 2015 at the 3rd Annual Business Analytics Forum at Indiana University’s Kelley School of Business the Institute of Defense and Business (IDB) and SAS had an opportunity to address over two hundred students, faculty members and industry partners who have a vested interest in grooming these superstars of the future.

The Kelley School’s Institute for Business Analytics , co-chaired by Vijay Khatri and Frank Acito, was one of the first programs of its kind established to prepare students for careers in business analytics. The Institute hosts this conference to make their students savvy in real world analytics and bridge the gap between academia and the real world. They actively seek out and engage with industry partners who provide internships and other pathways to employment.

This year’s conference topics included the Internet of Things (IOT), supply chain analytics, and healthcare analytics. The IDB, SAS, Deloitte and IBM were invited to inject the importance of analytics to government.

sas infographic government analyticsGovernment Analytics Jobs

Government is a heavy user of analytics and acutely feels the pain of the analytics skills gap across all agencies. A 2014 GovLoop survey reported that 96 percent of those surveyed – 46 percent of whom self-identify as experts or analysts – believe their agency has a data skills gap

Last year’s audience gave the thumbs up to our “Data vs. Gut” panel discussion, which featured retired military officers giving their perspective on the evolution they’ve seen of analytics use in decision making in defense organizations. This year, due to unforeseen circumstances, our defense panelist was not able to make it. Van Noah, panel moderator, smoothly shifted gears and reworked the flow of the conversation to provide the students in the audience with a broad preview of how they can apply their data skills in government analytics jobs.

If you were not able to see the discussion in person, here is a summary of the content these experts were able to shed light on:

  • Since this panel discussion was held just five days before the income tax filing deadline of April 15th – and stories about scammers were prolific in the media — what better subject to open the conversation?
  • Indiana University Kelley School of Business 04.10.2015Van Noah from IDB was able to represent the government sector and weave in some thoughts on how the military could better use analytics to select candidates for intensive training programs. For example, pilot training is expensive, so using analytics to identify students who are likely to wash out early is much safer and more cost effective than letting all students progress to the next phase of training.
  • Satish Lalchand from Deloitte has a long history of working with analytics in government and provided examples of how the federal government is leveraging analytics to combat fraud and improper payments. He also shared his perspective on how agencies can get started once they see the business need for analytics and what it takes besides analytics to make better decisions.
  • Eric Zidenberg from SAS has been involved with public safety organizations for many years and talked about how analytics are currently being used on the southwest border to make better decisions on which cars should be sent secondary inspection for illicit materials.
  • Dion Rudnicki from IBM segued nicely into talking about how the Memphis Police Department was using analytics to better allocate resources to reduce crime. In a city previously identified as #1 for crime in the US, and where there are only 2,500 police officers to protect the population of 650,000, analytics allows government to place the right resources at the right places at the right time. The result: a 30% drop in crime.

Next Generation Data Scientists

Students preparing for careers in data science have a lot of options when they enter the workforce. The data analytics talent gap exists in every sector in our global economy. When students weigh their options, they should consider the jobs that support the public sector. Serving government will give them a chance to make a real difference. Government needs these talented, data scientists of the future!

Gail Bamford is an IDB guest blogger and has over 30 years of experience working in the public sector IT market. She has been with SAS since 2006 and is passionate about helping close the analytics talent gap. For more than a decade, SAS and the IDB have worked collaboratively to raise the level of awareness of the value analytics to defense leaders.

Highlights from the 2014 UNC-IDB Strategic Studies Fellows Program

The UNC-IDB Strategic Studies Fellows Program (SSFP) recognized its third class of graduates with a graduation ceremony on July 25, 2014 at the University of North Carolina in Chapel Hill, NC. The details of the ceremony were published in our press release, along with information on SSFP and the Fellows’ Capstone Team Project. The 49 graduates (a number twice as large as in the years before) included Army Majors, Captains, Warrant Officers, NCOs, and Civilian Strategists. While they certainly enjoyed the opportunity to celebrate the journey they had completed together, it is hard to determine if the graduation event was the climax. The five weeks spent together on campus were filled with so many high points many said they were not ready for the experience to end.

Hitting The Ground Running

UNC-IDB SSFP 2014 Odierno

Photo: IDB 2014.

The first week of school is generally regarded as the easy week or the “calm before the storm”; this was not true for SSFP. Top IDB faculty used the first week of class to build the foundation of the strategic thinking and national security curriculum.  That Friday they were granted a unique opportunity to talk candidly with one of their own. On June 27th U.S. Army’s 38th Chief of Staff General Raymond Odierno held an intimate conversation with the students. He spoke to them about the development of the force and how promotional boards are conducted, a topic very important to them as the Army faces downsizing. He stressed how critical education will be as they move forward and work to maintain readiness with small numbers.  Students were able to ask General Odierno questions about current issues, such as regional alignment, and the rationale behind Army leadership’s decisions.

 The Ties That Bind Us

As part of laying a solid foundation, students spent the first Saturday of the program engaged in academic and service activities outside of the classroom. These events facilitated extraordinarily strong, life-long bonds within the 2014 class of Fellows which proved critical to their success in the program.

UNC-IDB SSFP 2014 Students at the Guilford Courthouse Battle Ride.

Photo: IDB 2014.

Twenty-nine students attended the Guilford Courthouse Battle Ride led by the Chair of the Curriculum in Peace, War, and Defense at UNC-Chapel Hill, Dr. Wayne Lee and drove down to Greensboro, NC early Saturday morning to walk the trails of the historic Revolutionary War battle and understand the significance of the 1781 Battle at Guilford Courthouse.  With fresh perspectives from the week’s academic sessions, the students recognized the decisions made on the battlefield impacted the greater strategies of both sides during the Revolutionary War.


UNC-IDB SSFP 2014 Students at the Jim Wall Challenge Course.

Photo: IDB 2014.

The remaining twenty students traveled to the campus of North Carolina State University to conduct a service project at the Jim Wall Challenge Course.  In partnership with the U.S. Veteran Corps, the Fellows assisted in beautification projects for a Wounded Warrior Project event this fall at the course.  Service to others is a crucial component of being a great leader and these students were given the opportunity to not only give back, but to give back to their own military community.

 Corporate Visits – Charlotte

The IDB is in a unique position in that its able to bring together the worlds of defense and business.  This is what sets the UNC-IDB SSFP curriculum apart – the emphasis on developing not only the strategic thinking but also the executive skills of these young leaders.  For the past three years, the Fellows have traveled to local North Carolina based private sector organizations to hear more on how the private sector overcomes similar challenges.  This year, the SSFP group traveled to Charlotte, NC to meet with two large organizations – Duke Energy and the Carolina Panthers (a National Football League team).

UNC-IDB SSFP 2014 Students at Duke Energy

Photo: IDB 2014.

At Duke Energy, the students met with the senior risk management team, including the Chief Risk Officer, the Vice President of Emerging Technology, the Vice President of Project Management and Construction, and the Director of Enterprise Preparedness Services.  The leaders provided the private sector perspective on risk management and various other components of the business world.  However, the students most appreciated the candidness of the conversation. The discussion ranged from the challenges that the Fortune 250 company was facing to managing a work-life balance to speaking about the facets of a successful career.

UNC-IDB SSFP 2014 Students at the Carolina Panthers' Bank of America Stadium.

Photo: IDB 2014.

The positions The Fellows hold within the Army require them to develop and guide the younger talent in their units towards a successful path.  Therefore, the IDB arranged a meeting with a professional sports team whose focus is to do just that (and also win football games).  The students met with the President of the Carolina Panthers, Mr. Danny Morrison, and he spoke on the topics of leadership and talent management. The visit with the Panthers concluded with an exclusive behind-the-scenes tour of the locker room, team meeting room, the suites, and other facilities in the Bank of America Stadium.  The core takeaways from the afternoon were the importance of developing and taking care of young talent as well as taking care of the individuals that support and motivate the talent – like the Panthers fans and the greater Panthers community.

Connecting the Dots

During the last week of the program, the Fellows had the opportunity to speak in person with Pulitzer Prize Winner Mark Mazzetti about his New York Times Bestseller, The Way of the Knife. This book was assigned as a pre-course reading assignment to launch the students into the course material and subject areas. The book discusses the blurred lines between the U.S. Military and the U.S. Intelligence Community in the battlefield. The strategic implications of this blurriness were discussed both in and outside of the classroom. The open conversation with Mazzetti included students questioning the author’s perspectives as a journalist on strategic national security issues and Mazzetti reciprocally asking the Fellows’ perspectives on the same issues and the way ahead. This event allowed students to bring together all the theories, concepts, and debates central to SSFP’s national security decision-making curriculum.

Broad Horizons

The July 25th graduation ceremony served as an opportunity to acknowledge all of the students’ hard work and growth over the previous five weeks. At the end of her time in Chapel Hill, one student summarized her experience by saying, “we were encouraged to go as far as possible and were not put ‘in a box’ regarding our potential thinking processes” We hope the creative thinking drawn from the non-traditional, low-threat learning environment will continue to drive them as they advance through their careers.

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Data, Gut, Watson, and Angelina Jolie

The fourth and last of the Data vs. Gut panel series took place at the 2014 North Carolina Federal Advanced Technologies Review (NCFATR) conference on June 5. Scott Dorney, Executive Director of the North Carolina Military Business Center invited the Institute for Defense and Business (IDB) and SAS to give a repeat performance of the original Data vs. Gut panel discussion last fall.

The discussion was moderated by IDB president, Mark Cramer, and featured Karen Terrell, VP of SAS Federal and former IDB Executive Fellow, Rear Admiral Erroll Brown (USCG ret.).June 5, 2014 NCFATR Panel "Data vs. Gut"


In every panel discussion we’ve hosted on Data vs. Gut, the importance of data leads the discussion. Good data is critical to successful analytics. It’s not surprising that this comes up over and over since there are many examples of bad data leading to disastrous decisions with disastrous consequences. In doing analysis, be mindful of:

  • Data quality: How accurate is your data? Accurate data analysis is only as good as the data put in. A lot of data is still entered manually and is incomplete or incorrect.
  • Timeliness: How important is timely data in your analysis? Time-critical decisions depend on easy access to the most up-to-date data.
  • Data relevancy: What data do you need to solve your problem? You don’t have to analyze every bit of data you have access to. What data is relevant to your situation?

Brown had some observations and suggestions.

  • Problem: Clearly understand the problem you are trying to solve.
  • Data: Is the data right and is it the right data? Make sure you know your data. Make sure it is accurate and timely. And, make sure the data you are using in your analysis is relevant to the problem you are trying to solve.
  • Tools: Get the right analytic tools for the job. One size does not fit all. You have to have the right algorithms, or “algos” too.

Evolution of Data and Analytics

June 5, 2014 NCFATR Panel "Data vs. Gut"Terrell shared with the audience her observation of how the usage and value of data has evolved. In her 20+ years of serving the government market, she has seen customers move from basic reporting and descriptive statistics to advanced and predictive analytics. Government routinely uses analytics to detect and prevent fraud these days. Other areas trending up are predictive asset maintenance and identification of high risk procurements.

She also noted the “democratization” of analytics. If you know your data and know your business, you can unlock insights in your data with powerful visualization tools that make it possible to slice and dice your data from your desktop. It’s easy and you don’t have to be a statistician to understand the graphic output.

High performance analytics is allowing more data to be analyzed faster and with a greater degree of granularity. Terrell mentioned a large department store chain that is using analytics to do markdown optimization on 270 million SKUs in 850 stores. Optimization models determine which items to mark down and by how much. What used to take 30 hours to run, now takes less than 2. This saves the company millions of dollars every year in unnecessary markdowns.

Data vs. Gut

Terrell brought the data vs. gut discussion to a very human level when she mentioned Angelina Jolie, who saw both her mother and aunt die at early ages from cancer. In her NY Times Op Ed piece she talks about the reality and her decision. But, her radical decision was not made in a vacuum. She did her research and gathered the data. She carries the “faulty” BRCA1 gene and found out she had an 87% risk of developing breast cancer. With this knowledge, she was able to make the difficult, but data-driven decision to have a preventative double mastectomy.

June 5, 2014 NCFATR Panel "Data vs. Gut"Brown cautioned about machine-to-machine decision making. “Computers don’t make you smarter.” That’s where gut comes in. Humans must have a symbiotic relationship with machines. But, Brown, who spent several years at IBM after his retirement from the Coast Guard, couldn’t resist bringing Watson into the conversation. Watson learns like an individual and can tell you how it got to an answer or outcome. That’s more than he says he can get out of his seventeen-year old when he has confronted him with “How’d you get to that (stupid) decision?”

So if Watson processes data more like a human than a computer and learns as it goes, what will the data vs. gut discussion be in 10 years?

Gail Bamford is an IDB guest blogger and senior marketing professional with over 25 years in information technology. She has been with SAS, the leader in advanced analytics software, since 2006 and supports business units focused on delivering analytic solutions to Defense, National Security, Higher Education and K-12.

Additional Resources:

Download white paper based on Data vs. Gut panel #1 – “How Analytics Improves Decision Making at the Department of Defense: Finding new ways to add value and insights to big data.”

Read Blog on Data vs. Gut panel #2 – “SAS – IDB Defense Panel Serves Up Advice for Analytics Students at Kelley School Business Analytics Summit 2014”

Read Blog on Data vs. Gut panel #3 – “Shining Light on Data in Austere Environments”

Big Data for National Security

A few weeks ago, during the Special Operations Forces Industry Conference, the Institute for Defense & Business in conjunction with SAS Institute sponsored a luncheon panel discussion about Analytics and the Future of SOF. They offered me the opportunity to partner with Ambassador (retired) David Litt and Major General (retired) Kevin Leonard, U.S. Army to discuss how analytics can be used as an enabler for SOF operations in austere areas like Africa.

We’ve all heard the hype about “Big Data.” But SO WHAT? It’s generally discussed in the context of marketing, with one of the favored examples being Target identifying which of their customers are pregnant through their buying habits so that they can then send them coupons for diapers. But if you are not trying to sell diapers, you have probably missed out on the conversation, since selling diapers is a far cry from national security.

So instead of discussing “big data,” why don’t we discuss “Predictive Battlespace Awareness” or “Intelligence Preparation of the Operational Space”? These are two topics that are highly relevant to National Security. Funnily enough, both of these discussions lead us right back to big data, analytics, and the subject of last week’s conference, how can analytics be an enabler for SOF in the future.

Predictive Battlespace Awareness is the concept that you can develop a situational awareness picture so rich it enables you to anticipate what will happen so that you can develop course of action to thwart your adversary before they can act. A recent blog on my website discusses agribusiness in Africa as a sample use case. Achieving situational awareness is one element of the decision cycle: Observe, Orient, Decide, Act, also known as the OODA-loop.

For years, in all industries, the defense community not withstanding, we’ve been making huge investments into sensor technology to enable the observation phase of our OODA loop. And now we find ourselves overwhelmed with that very same data. We are no longer looking for a needle in a haystack, we are looking for a specific needle in a needlestack, and, as one might expect, it’s pretty painful.

Analytics technologies allow us to explore that data in a way that empowers us to advance our decision cycle through the orientation and decision phases. This means we can act more quickly when opportunities present themselves, respond more rapidly to thwart our adversaries, and anticipate where problems might develop so we can put remedial measures in place ahead of time.

Further, big data analytics capabilities can act as an enabler to collaboration. In an age of complexity, the next operation may require cooperation across multiple nations, non-governmental organizations, and both civilian and military authorities. Big data can facilitate this, even despite the fact that each organization runs on their own siloed system and processes.

In each of these cases, Special Forces will be able to leverage huge amounts of data to develop an intelligence picture of their operating space, collaborate with a coalition of any size and shape, and build the network they need to manage the complexity that is a part of normal operations.

This essentially recaps the discussion between David, Kevin at the discussion panel. Once again, I’d like to thank SAS and the IDB for the opportunity to share ideas. Big data may have us swimming in the ocean, but analytics capabilities offer a huge return on investment, not just for people looking to sell diapers, but for those of you who work in the national security community—in fact, the return on investment from a national security perspective is infinite!

Lt Col Tammy Schwartz, USAF (Ret.)Lt Col Tammy Schwartz, USAF (Ret.) is an IDB guest blogger and recognized innovator with more than 20 years of national security experience. Schwartz is a former Chief Technology Officer for Air Force Enterprise Networking and is currently a Consultant for SAS and the Owner of Llamrai Enterprises. You can read more from Schwartz on her blog.