Compared to even twenty years ago, the mission of all federal agencies has become inherently complex. Whether your thinking about the Social Security Administration whose mission it is to deliver critical benefits to older Americans, the Department of Defense which has added an entire new domain – the protection of space to its mission, or the National Institutes of Health seeking to quickly identify a vaccine and cure for the latest zoonotic disease, the work of federal agencies has changed dramatically in recent years.
But what has also changed are the resources available to agencies to meet the challenges and deliver mission success. While legacy systems still linger in the IT closets of most agencies, it’s undeniable that federal agencies have embarked on a bold data-driven journey. And, at the heart of this data-driven journey is a willingness to embrace artificial intelligence (AI) as a critical part of the agency’s infrastructure.
In a recent conversation with Nextgov’s James Hanson, Brian Carpenter, Senior Director, Flashblade Technology and AI evangelist at Pure Storage, explained how AI can help deliver mission success. “AI isn’t about replacing people, it’s about supporting them, about letting the model do the routine tasks, and getting to insight faster,” he shared.
For most agencies, however, AI can also seem overwhelming. Carpenter and Hanson quickly identified several issues from data governance to data readiness, and scalability that are the key contributors to making AI seem unapproachable and overwhelming. According to Carpenter, however, getting started on a transformational AI journey doesn’t need to be like that. “The secret to success is to first identify a problem and clearly define how AI can help. Then you need to gather your tools, in this case it’s data, determine data readiness, and then build a model. The whole life cycle and planning starts long before any GPU cycles.” he shared.
And of course a dedicated data-driven partner doesn’t go astray at any point in the cycle from identifying the initial use case to scaling from a model to production. “There are sill many opportunities to get tripped up along the way when embarking on an AI project,” Carpenter added. “Agencies can definitely benefit from an industry partner that has extensive knowledge and experience in not only understanding data governance, ensuring that data is AI-ready, identifying robust use cases, and scalability, all of which allows the agency’s data scientists to translate the model to the mission.”
The scale, scope, and urgency of today’s mission requires a whole new set of tools as well as a new approach in order to deliver success. “The complexity of today’s mission makes AI essential for federal agencies,” concluded Carpenter. “The best thing federal agencies can do is to simply start on an AI pilot. There’s a perception that it’s hard but pick a point and get started.”
Still daunted by the thought of AI? Brian offers additional reassurance and tips here.