AI has a crucial role for federal agencies, if they are able to implement it effectively. That means creating responsible guardrails like privacy, transparency and fairness in the use of AI, Chraibi said.
“It’s helped us make evidence-based decisions, improve on customer experience, perform intelligent automation, enhance data privacy and ethical data practices, as well as strengthen our cybersecurity systems,” he added.
Some agencies are already aiming to make more internal investments to boost their workforce’s understanding of AI, as well as train current employees on best practices. The Army, for instance, is looking to do more internal upskilling and recruiting, while also working to maintain industry partnerships.
“It’s key for anybody embarking on an AI journey, know and understand your organization’s mission and how AI can enable it,” said Army Forces Command Chief Data Officer Jock Padgett at the ATARC event. “You don’t always want to outsource your data and AI talent, so invest in your people upfront.”
Padgett said the Army is also looking to add to its internal workforce that deals directly with AI-related work. Although the Army can make direct hires for software developers and data engineers, the service still relies heavily on the private sector to hire data scientists.
“Data scientist talent is very weighted on the industry side right now. What I do see happening over the course of several years is that scale will end up balancing itself out to some degree, as DoD as a whole starts taking on the training tasks, new skill sets [and] upskilling,” Padgett said.
For the Defense Department overall, Jaret Riddick, DoD’s acting principal director for trusted AI and autonomy, said that diversity, equity, inclusion and accessibility also play a role in the recruitment process.
“Down the road, there will be a critical need to grow the talent base and to maintain an eye on the capacity of the industrial base in the future, to produce these technologies that we’ll need,” Riddick said at the ATARC event.
AI is not the only area where the Defense Department is looking to expand its connections with HBCUs. In June, DoD and the Air Force created and funded a new institute, partnering with 11 minority institutions to create the research organization.
Along with these types of minority institution partnerships, DoD is adding other industry partnerships as well.
To best implement and use AI, at least some understanding of the technology is necessary at all levels of an agency’s workforce, Chraibi said. By assessing the internal resources and skills that are currently available, agency leaders can then focus on upskilling and training where it’s needed the most. They can also identify what they still need to obtain from external sources.
“It’s important to have leadership understand this technology, understand what are the needs, what are the requirements, and of course, supply the skills and resources that are needed to be successful,” Chraibi said.