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by Brian Chidester
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The Next Phase of Modernization: Connect Data to Government Agency Missions

When it accepts the eight million applications, petitions, and requests for assistance every year, the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Service (USCIS) collects, processes, stores, and uses an untold amount of data. More devices, applications, and data-sharing requirements point to the continued growth in data usage across federal agencies that need to accelerate digital modernization efforts to keep up.


The 2022 survey of federal chief data officers highlights the situation: 42% identified mature data governance as a challenge, and 32% called out data and infrastructure maturity as difficult.



To be certain, there is awareness about the need for digital technologies and adoption. This year federal civilian agencies will spend $65 billion on IT, up 11% from the previous year. Progress has been made in cloud adoption, greater cloud computing, advanced data analytics, deployment of artificial intelligence, the Internet of Things (IoT) and use of blockchain technologies. What will accelerate the ability to leverage data as a strategic asset is being more intentional on connecting these technologies to mission outcomes. This occurs when data gets used to make better, smarter, and faster decisions that ultimately can transform the way government operates.


“The issue for agencies is not obtaining data, but the abundance of data,” said Senior Principal Peter Gabriel of Maximus, which works with federal agencies on data and modernization strategies. “Agencies need to make sense of their data and extract more value from it in order to enhance service delivery. That takes targeted investments in infrastructure, security, and analytics capabilities using artificial intelligence and machine learning. There’s no other way to process that much data in a useful way.”


To make the best use of data, Gabriel advocates having the right infrastructure for data storage and processing, as well as containerized applications built with frameworks such as the agile methodologies and DevSecOps. These ensure sound data usage and that applications perform as expected with resiliency and flexibility, regardless of threats. With high-functioning applications executing mission-specific tasks such as responding to requests with intelligent digital assistants, agencies extend their value in the digital domain. These types of outcomes that have an enduring impact to the mission increasingly will define the success of transformation programs.


Data Transformation at Homeland Security


While thwarting illegal activities like smuggling and cyberattacks remains an important part of modernization efforts, legal programs also benefit from having stronger digital programs. Solutions deployed at DHS include cloud-native data lakes that allows agencies to store massive amounts of data in native formats. By collecting raw data in this repository, agencies can access, quickly process and analyze it.


“At Maximus, we developed a system that DHS can use to accesses multiple databases sources simultaneously,” Gabriel said. “The process used to take a long time because of all the databases that had to be checked individually, and now decisions about a risk profile can be made quickly with a customized data model.”


Use of these data management systems based on artificial intelligence and machine learning will increase at other DHS agencies known as high-impact public service providers. As more travelers use airports, more products pass through ports, and more need arises from natural disasters, DHS agencies will have to examine data for faster response and a better customer engagement. Learning trends and patterns in structured and unstructured data, and then feeding them into a decision matrix will be necessary to execute their missions as data grows.


Foster a Data Culture


What’s the best way forward for agencies to ensure data is secure, relevant, normalized, and leads to sound decision support? Gabriel stresses the importance of picking the right industry partner that understands the mission and has a history of being an industry leader.


“Technical expertise is table stakes for our DHS customers, but technology changes fast,” he says. “Success requires understanding their strategic priorities, working with small business partners and their niche capabilities, and quickly integrating data into decisions without necessarily having to build dashboards about it. That’s what will increase overall effectiveness.”


As the federal agency that has the most daily interactions with the public, DHS has the opportunity to make the most of data science, reimagine workflows and maintain national security that supports the future of government.


To learn more about how Maximus is working with agencies to deliver IT and data transformation programs, visit http://www.maximus.com/dhs.


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