Artificial Intelligence Gains Energy

The development and use of Artificial Intelligence (AI) became official policy of the United States with the signing of an Executive Order in February. This order outlines and directs America's government-wide push to advance the use of AI through research and public/private partnerships. In the ensuing months, the Department of Energy has emerged as a leader in these efforts.

In September 2019, the DOE initiated the Artificial Intelligence and Technology Office (AITO) to help channel the department's vast resources across its national lab facilities. These efforts are paying off as DOE partners with Health and Human Services and Veterans Affairs as part of the COVID-19 Insights Partnership with the goal to increase data sharing and analysis in the fight against the spread of COVID-19. The DOE is also pressing ahead with private partnerships announcing the First Five Consortium with Microsoft, the Pacific Northwest National Laboratory, and the Defense Department's Joint Artificial Intelligence Center (JAIC). Together they will develop AI-based solutions for data-first responders.

Another cross-government AI initiative involves the DOE partnering with the National Science Foundation (NSF) to establish new research institutes for AI development. Projects in these institutes will focus on machine learning, synthetic manufacturing, precision agriculture, and forecasting predictions. Research will be done in coordination with state universities nationwide.

Finally, the DOE will be combining their AI focus and their leading role in High Performance Computing (HPC) research to better secure these powerful resources. Malicious cryptocurrency miners look to these HPC machines as a way to gain advantage in the cryptocurrency market. They can (and have) hijack high-performing computers at universities and government facilities to take advantage of their processing power and save themselves from having to set up their own mining systems. DOE is working on AI technology that compares control flow graphs of programs actually running on the system to a catalog of graphs for programs that have permission to run on a given computer. This helps spot unauthorized programs, even if they have been disguised to look like legitimate programming.

There are a number of events and resources that examine the many applications of AI and detail where we are today in the use and development of solutions.

  • 7th Annual Defense Research and Development Summit (January 14, 2021; virtual) - Learn about research and development within the defense sector. The summit will address the latest priorities, advancements and challenges within the development and delivery of innovative solutions.
  • Ai4 2021 Cybersecurity Summit (February 3-4, 2021; virtual) - This event brings together business leaders and data practitioners to facilitate the adoption of artificial intelligence and machine learning technology within the cybersecurity industry. With a use-case oriented approach to content, attendees will get actionable insights from those working on the frontlines of AI.
  • AI Week 2021 (May 10-14; online) - This week-long multi-organization event gathers the biggest names in tech and artificial intelligence to discuss ways to harness emerging technology's potential to revolutionize all aspects of life.
  • American Artificial Intelligence Initiative: Year One Annual Report (white paper) - Published by the White House Office of Science and Technology Policy, this paper looks at the progress and a continued long-term vision for the American AI Initiative.
  • AI Readiness for Government (white paper) -- As various government agencies prepare to deploy artificial intelligence, a six-pronged framework can help assess AI readiness. To capture AI's potential to create value, government organizations will need a plan to retool the relevant existing processes, upskill or hire key staff, refine approaches toward partnership, and develop the necessary data and technical infrastructure to deploy AI.

We'd love to hear where you are learning about AI progress in government. Let us know what events you're attending in the comments.

Be sure to check out GovEvents for a complete listing of conferences, virtual events, webinars, and a library of on-demand resources.

For Government, It’s Already 2021

With many people in a rush to put 2020 behind us, those of us in the government market can safely say we're operating like it's 2021 (not as fun as partying like it's 1999, but anything beats 2020, right?). While the rush to meet the deadline for federal government fiscal year (GFY) spending on September 30 may have felt oddly comforting in its familiarity, there are many changes happening in government acquisition and procurement to make processes more responsive to today's workforce and technology needs.

The use of automation is expanding beyond using Robotic Process Automation (RPA) to handle rote, repetitive tasks. RPA has been incredibly beneficial for freeing up the time of acquisition professionals to focus on innately human activities, rather than administrative tasks. Now, acquisition groups are going a step further and introducing Artificial Intelligence (AI) to improve processes by tapping into all of the data available in acquisition systems. For example, GSA uses an AI-enabled bot to "track, find and change Section 508 disability clauses in contracts." This helps ensure compliance, feeding updated clauses to humans for final review.

In September, the Department of Defense (DOD) issued Directive 5000.01, an update to the 5000 series instructions that focuses on the roles and responsibilities for its acquisition process in an effort to simplify the buying process. The end goal of this simplification is to get technology in the hands of the warfighter faster. Continue reading

Re-Imagining Government Supply Chain Management

This spring, the concept of supply chains became a household discussion as families searched high and low for household staples like toilet paper, flour, and hand soap. However, supply chain for government is more complex than the supply and demand driven model for consumer goods. Government supply chains involve monitoring for security and foreign involvement. This means knowing where all parts of a solution were manufactured, programmed, and assembled.

Gregory C. Wilshusen, director of information security issues at the U.S. Government Accountability Office, noted that "supply chains can be long, complex, and globally distributed and can consist of multiple outsourcing tiers. As a result, agencies may have little visibility into, understanding of, or control over how the technology that they acquire is developed, integrated, and deployed."

This lack of visibility is due in part to incomplete vendor reporting. Not only do vendors have to manage all the pieces of their solution, but they themselves may be managed by multiple organizations in an agency. Reporting happens through numerous tools and is siloed, making it difficult to get a full picture of the chain that led to the delivery of a solution to a government agency.

Continue reading

Introducing Drones into the Government Toolkit

DroneFrom military missions to public safety applications to infrastructure inspections, drones have many applications across government. While the technology is ready for all of these applications (and more), there are complex regulatory and legal issues that are holding up their widespread use. These issues include airspace regulations (for the safety of manned and unmanned flights), privacy concerns (related to on-board cameras), and cybersecurity concerns.

While these issues are being discussed in the courts and across regulatory bodies, state and federal level agencies are taking steps to integrate drone usage into their processes. For federal agencies, drones are available on the GSA Schedule. State and local organizations are piloting a drone-as-a-service model that allows groups to use drones for specific-use cases without having to invest in the purchase and maintenance of the hardware.

There are a number of upcoming events that address both the technology and the policies that impact current and future drone usage. Continue reading

Department Spotlight: DoD – More Money, More Opportunity?

With the Bipartisan Budget Act (BBA) of 2018 passing in February, the defense discretionary funding cap was increased by $80 billion in FY2018 and $85 billion in FY2019. The DoD now has over $700 billion in their budget. This type of legislation is not unprecedented with BBAs issued in 2013 and 2015. However, the 2018 deal does stand out in terms of the amount of money added to funding caps.

So what are defense agencies doing with this influx of federal dollars? According to research from Market Connections, two thirds of Defense decision makers say that money will go toward projects that have been stalled due to budget disagreements and continuing resolutions. This means that agencies are not necessarily investing in net new work, rather using the influx to put existing plans and programs into action. Those projects getting the kick start range widely, with a large portion involving cybersecurity, modernization initiatives, and training. Continue reading