Scope of Data Science in Military, Intelligence & Law Enforcement


The modern-day military and its personnel are very different from the past centuries. The military has become far superior and sophisticated with the advancement of technology. Nowadays one can see more of slim fit intellectuals in uniforms rather than the beefed up and ripped officers. The reason for this change is that apart from physical strength, the modern day military, intelligence and law enforcement operations require a lot of interpretation of information which they receive through varied channels like phones, internet, satellite etc. In all the domestic and overseas bases, such data is generated every day, every minute or rather every second.

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This information or data can be utilized to bring out useful insights to protect the homeland. But are there enough skilled personnel to carry out such analysis? Well, a 2012 military report “Lightening the Information Load” quoted an officer in Afghanistan as saying, “…90% of the information requested was already in the system, but the person asking didn’t know where to look or how to extract it.”

Indian military and law enforcement organizations do not have a dedicated post for a data science expert as of now. Although it has been realised by the Indian military fraternity that there is a need for such a position as there have been discussions taken place in CLAWS (Centre for Land Warfare Studies).

The analysis is outsourced to private organisations due to the lack of data analysts or dedicated data analysis department in the military, paramilitary and law enforcement organizations in India.

A Gurugram based company which goes by the name Chron, has developed border security systems for the BSF. It has found out with the help of past data that whenever there are cattle moving around the border fence, there is a high chance of cross-border intrusion. The movement of the cattle ensured that there are no landmines near the fence and it would be safe for the intruders to cross over.

However, there is a potential threat to the national security to outsource the border’s important data to be given in the hands of private players for analysis. Therefore there is an utmost need for the military and law enforcement organizations to have a dedicated department for data analytics.

The use of data analytics in the military not only lies in intelligence, surveillance, border management, maritime management, space management, operational planning but also in logistics, financial management, disaster management, future technologies, cognitive analysis and analysis of historical data.

Many intelligence organisations who are largely involved in overseas operations generate a lot of data and have realized the need for data scientists. For example, the CIA (Central Intelligence Agency) has a dedicated post for a Data Scientist. The salary for this post ranges from $62,338 to $199,794. They are expected to organize and interpret Big Data to inform the decision makers of the United States, drive successful operations and shape CIA’s technology and resource investments. These Data Scientists not only work with the advanced hardware and software but also with the techniques to develop computational algorithms and statistical methods that find patterns and relations in the vast sea of data. They deliver their conclusions with coherence to a lay audience. They even get good opportunities to become experts through CIA’s sponsored continuous education, attending scholarly and technical symposiums, and networking with the Intelligence Community. The Agency also gives them the access to unique data sets that can be analysed in one computational environment.

However, there will be a time in future when militaries across the globe will realize the need for Data Scientists. No matter how large a database the nation may have on its national security, it will always require highly skilled and big teams to study it and bring it to the table in a readable state. Further, the Data Scientists may themselves be required to analyse the vital information out of it. The data from a foreign country might as well be in a foreign language for the military intelligence to interpret. In such a case the future militaries will even have polyglot Data Scientists in their intelligence wings in order to analyse data in foreign languages.

There might still be raw data hidden right now, somewhere in the data repositories of the numerous security organisations in various nations which could fail the next big attack on a homeland. But finding a good Data Scientist for this interpretation can be a challenge as the saying goes in the data fraternity ‘Data Scientists are as rare as unicorns.’

Data scientists in the military, intelligence and law enforcement benefits the organization by mitigating the risk of failure, gaining a better understanding of the anti-national elements, receiving unique insights, aiding in efficient expansion and improving event predictions. These benefits will further reduce operational casualties, collateral damage, fall in crime rate, fall in the rate of terror attacks, and fall in the rate of cross-border intrusions. Soon a day will come when data science will play an ace role in the security of a nation.

Debashish Roy
Debashish Roy, is a twenty-two-year-old graduate in B. Com from Christ University, Bangalore. Black Belt in Lean Six Sigma is one of his treasured credentials. He is pursuing his MBA in Business Analytics from UPES, Dehradun and is an aspiring data professional.

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