Chiarelli urges support for knowledge management tools

The Army's vice chief of staff said IT leaders need to keep pushing for systems that help users make better decisions.

Federal knowledge officers need to keep championing the practical value of systems that help users make better decisions, not just process greater amounts of information, said Gen. Peter Chiarelli, the Army’s vice chief of staff.

He also warned against giving in to bureaucratic barriers that stand in the way of getting critical operational information into the hands of those who need it.

“What I’ve found as a leader who’s stepped up in the Army [is that] the higher you get, the more people want to deny you t information you really need,” Chiarelli told a gathering of public-sector professionals at the 10th annual Knowledge Management conference April 28.

He highlighted the rapid grass-roots adoption of the Army’s Tactical Ground Reporting (TIGR) and Command Post of the Future (CPOF) systems as examples of how the right knowledge management tools in the right hands have made a monumental difference in the way the military operates.

The multimedia TIGR system helps soldiers collect and share situational awareness information. It incorporates a geospatial interface and notation tools that make it easy for soldiers to post new information from one patrol to the next and collaborate on changing circumstances. Similarly, the CPOF system enables division and brigade commanders to discuss and collaborate on information, share ideas, and attend virtual meetings without assembling at one place.

These and other systems have dramatically increased the speed of decision-making, Chiarelli said.

“We’ve also come to realize, as the amount of information and data continues to grow at a rapid rate, [that] it is that individual at the user level who provides the context that makes this information useful intelligence,” he said. “Information is simply data. Knowledge is those relevant pieces of information that can be understood and effectively applied by individuals on the battlefield.”

Chiarelli emphasized the importance of developing knowledge management tools that provide essential information to users and cited the power of user acceptance as a way to overcome bureaucratic and budget pressures.

He noted that the TIGR system, developed by the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency, was nearly killed in part because some leaders were concerned that ground intelligence would bypass the traditional review of senior military analysts.

Instead, technology-savvy soldiers embraced the life-saving capabilities of TIGR’s intelligence platform, and 17 brigade combat teams now use it, Chiarelli said.

He also stressed the importance of getting the right leaders together to resolve the problem of overclassification of information and the legal hurdles that prevent data from being shared with those who need it.

The Knowledge Management conference was produced by 1105 Government Information Group, which also publishes Government Computer News, Federal Computer Week and Washington Technology.

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