Early into the U.S. Department of State’s response to the COVID-19 crisis, the need for a single source for all pandemic-relevant data quickly became apparent. Department leadership faced herculean duties including how to coordinate the repatriation of tens of thousands of Americans. With agility and a fierce determination to solve these complex problems, members of the Office of Management Strategy and Solutions’ (M/SS) Center for Analytics (CfA) partnered with the Operations Center’s Office of Crisis Management and Strategy (CMS) to standup the COVID-19 Data Analytics Team (CDAT). This burgeoning data hub would become the trusted platform for the Department’s efforts to support and safeguard Americans during the global pandemic.
Composed of data scientists and other experts from across the Department, the CDAT spearheaded the support for the Coronavirus Global Response Coordination Unit (CGRCU) and the Repatriation Task Force. Their tireless work resulted in a platform with consolidated material that enabled data-informed decision making for leadership. A key element of this platform is its data catalog that indexes all available pandemic-related data from agency and operational information to field status and conditions on the ground. Out of these data analyses and visualizations emerged stories that provided insight into mission essential needs. Department leadership leveraged the data as a strategic asset to make informed, evidence-based decisions and solve key business problems.
Because of partnerships between the Department, other federal agencies, foreign governments and airport authorities, CDAT was able to support the repatriation of more than 100,000 Americans on over 1,100 flights from 136 countries and territories. “During the COVID-19 crisis, when reliance on trusted data is critical and deadlines are tight, the CDAT helps enable decision makers respond quickly and accurately,” said Director of the Office of Management Strategy and Solutions, Janice deGarmo, “It exemplifies our best efforts in assisting all stakeholders to work smarter.” It’s these contributions to the CDAT that made the platform instrumental in an American Diplomacy success story.
The State Department’s CDAT is a prime example of the principles and practices laid forth in the Federal Data Strategy being used to improve an agency’s evidence-based decision making. The CDO Council looks forward to hearing and sharing more stories about agency data activities.