Artificial Intelligence in the Federal Government: How AI Might Affect Federal Managers

On September 25, 2019, FMA attended the Kalaris Intelligence conference at Georgetown University. Sponsored by Georgetown’s Center for Security Studies, the theme revolved around Artificial Intelligence (AI) and national security. For federal managers and their employees, AI has the potential to become a useful tool for gathering data, sifting through that data, and accomplishing long term goals in an effective manner. FMA attended to learn more about this emerging technology, how it is currently being used, and how it can be used in the future.

To begin the conference, Sue Gordon, former Principal Deputy Director of National Intelligence gave a keynote speech on the development of AI in the intelligence community. At the center of her speech was the need for federal agencies, and the intelligence community specifically, to acquire a diverse data set.  “Data owners are going to have to understand that they don’t actually own the data — it’s owned by the community. And we can define community, and we can define ever-expanding rings of community, but we’re going to have to figure that out,” She explained, “we’ve gotta get away from people thinking that because they were responsible for collecting it, they are the ones who get to determine how it’s used.” In addition, she said, “the people who are collecting data don’t get to decide how it is collected; it has to be collected with use in mind.” With future AI integration requiring massive data set sharing between federal agencies, managers can expect future policy to reflect an approach of collaboration between multiple departments. Therefore, data collected by the Department of Defense will move easily between it fellow departments such as the Department of Homeland Security. 

Lieutenant General John Shanahan was the next keynote speaker. As the director of the Joint Artificial Intelligence Center, (JAIC) General Shanahan is responsible for accelerating the delivery of artificial intelligence-enabled capabilities, scaling the department-wide impact of AI and synchronizing AI activities.

Shanahan’s work at the Department of Defense can be used as a model for other departments and agencies looking to integrate AI into their work.  “It’s the big bang theory, you’ve got to create something out of nothing, which in the department of defense is never a trivial task,” he said. “A year ago, we had maybe ten people, I wasn’t even officially confirmed into the position. We had no money to speak of, we didn’t have a place to work out of as a team. A year into this we have almost 120 people including contractors. We have a very healthy budget for the next fiscal year.” When asked by the moderator where in ten years the most important applications of AI will be in the Department of Defense Shanahan had a quick reply. “Every aspect of the Department can be improved by AI.”

Through multiple speakers a talking point began to emerge: artificial intelligence has the potential to be a disruptive but practical tool for federal agencies. As AI fuses further into the daily work of feds, FMA will continue to advocate for common sense policies on behalf of managers and their employees.


The views reflected in this colunm are those of FMA and do not necesssarily represent the views of FEDmanager.

Posted in Hear it from FMA

Tags: Federal Managers Association, FMA

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