What’s Possible

The concept for the enclave is straightforward and relatively simple to imagine. Congressional staff are interested in understanding the origin and purpose of the programs they oversee. They want to follow how much money was allocated to a given program and how much has been spent to date. They want to know what was purchased, how spending relates to the end goal, and what still needs to be accomplished. Because most programs are multi-year efforts, the DoD has some flexibility in executing budgets. Congressional staff want to track if, what, and how much money has been re-programmed into or out of a budget. They also want to understand if, what, and why program objectives have changed. In addition, there are numerous program-specific details and data points that need to be shared. National and geopolitical forces may also intervene, requiring unexpected or unique data requests. Put simply, Congressional staff want to know if programs are over or under budget, succeeding or failing. If programs are not on track, they want to know why.

DoD benefits dramatically from swift and predictable budget decisions from Congress, including annual budgets, above threshold reprogramming, and new start requests. To speed decision making and reduce the vast number of wide-ranging queries from Congressional staff, the DoD can proactively provide access to a secure, controlled environment furnished with relevant data. DoD doesn’t need to anticipate or answer every question. Rather, the DoD can provide enough data to answer most common inquiries, reducing the need for mundane briefings, emails, and formal requests for information. DoD can share enough budget, acquisition, and execution data to ensure that unanswered questions are narrowly tailored and well-informed. Seamless, reliable, and easily accessible data would create an atmosphere of trust and foster productive dialogue. Ultimately, with fewer and higher-quality questions from Congress, the DoD can spend more time focused on executing its mission.

DoD can share the majority of that data with Congress in an unclassified environment. Such data is not classified today and would be sufficient for Congressional oversight. Importantly, reasonable security controls and an appropriate level of data fidelity create a manageable level of risk, making it possible for Congressional staff to access the data from their desktops via a single, intuitive user interface. They could see data based on access levels controlled by the DoD and in accordance with their Congressional role and security clearance level, which would also be managed by the DoD. Classified data would be accessible by those who need it via separate, appropriate systems. With modern data management practices in place, access to each specific element of the data could be individually controlled and every time any individual piece of data is accessed, that access would be logged. This would be much more secure than the current practice, which is heavily reliant on emailing documents and printing out paper copies for distribution.

DoD has hundreds of systems that it must pull structured and unstructured data from in order to populate the enclave. It can use a single, central data layer to extract and distribute the information. Data management rules would ensure all data is tagged and structured in a way that allows the enclave to pull from a single, authoritative source or proxy. All data and systems would report when they were last updated and when they will update next. Users with an appropriate access level would see data, those without would not.

Congressional staff would submit to a background check and the DoD would issue them CACs or PIVs. These physical identification cards would grant access to a secure, unclassified environment. An identity management system would verify identity and clearance levels would be validated by the Defense Information System for Security and related systems. Once approved, users would gain access to a commercial off the shelf software platform where they could see metrics for DoD programs of their choice as well as run unique queries.

Unfortunately, this is not how Congress and the DoD currently interact, nor is it the way the DoD has structured and organized their technology. Instead, interactions between the DoD and Congress are defined by a lack of Human-centered Design, poorly designed technologies, and unclear business organization and product ownership. While possible, change will require significant effort.

Back to top

This site was last updated on 12 MAR 2024.