Exploitation of Big Data for Special Operations Forces

Authored by:
Tammy Low
Published on 11/1/2018
Digital Only

In this new occasional paper, U.S. Air Force Lieutenant Colonel Low examines big data--data characterized by extensive open source datasets that are too large to analyze using traditional analytic methods. Those datasets include data comprised of news media, social media, and other open source information. By using innovative analytic tools and techniques, big datasets can be exploited to improve situational awareness and decision-making which can directly increase SOF mission effectiveness. The author advocates for the exploitation of big data during SOF pre-conflict activities. She offers lessons learned and opportunities discovered by the United Nations Global Pulse program, a program which has used big data analytics since its establishment in 2012. Through that lens, the author describes how big data can assist SOF through greater situational awareness that then leads to increased understanding of sociocultural, political, and economic issues and events.