The Cold War vanguard technology development model that churns over years is not working anymore. Instead of playing catch-up, the U.S. should be driving the pace of AI deployment.
AI is strongest when it is applied to help humans solve problems and find patterns. The federal enterprise is rife with areas that would benefit from AI-enabled teams, including personnel management, logistics and maintenance, and cyberdefense. While the narrative of strategic competition often posits the U.S. is engaged in an AI arms race, the race is not to determine who has the best algorithms. The race will be won by the country that makes AI work best to support its national goals and values.
In Government, AI Needs Humans to Work
Humans learn through experience while AI learns through data. The value of AI is derived from both the data it processes and the insightful questions asked by humans. As such, federal agencies must cultivate a culture of data excellence that elevates data to a strategic asset.
To answer realistic operational questions in a realistic data environment, the workforce must have access to the right computing capability, data access permissions that balance security imperatives and up-to-date IT.
People also make data, algorithms, processes, organizations and strategies. Given that the barriers to education have never been lower, individual contributors, middle managers and senior leaders should all be leveraging opportunities to improve their skills.
Against the backdrop of a rapidly shifting global technology landscape, the past six months have seen big moves for AI in the United States. The Department of Defense’s Joint Artificial Intelligence Center is open for business. The Executive Order on Maintaining American Leadership in Artificial Intelligence was issued on Feb. 11, followed the next day by the Department of Defense Artificial Intelligence Strategy.
While the priority technology is AI, the compelling narrative throughout each strategy is the federal workforce. To build an AI workforce and attract top talent, federal departments and agencies must develop the workforce we have into the workforce we need.