Brendan Walsh is senior vice president of partner relations at 1901 Group.
The recent convergence of quality clouds, federal reuse programs and policies, and enabling platforms has created leverage that simply did not exist until recently, and this creation of leverage is the catalyst pushing artificial intelligence in the federal IT market to its tipping point. This tipping point places us all on the verge of seeing substantial benefits and value coming from federal agency investments in AI, and as citizens, we should be excited to see quantifiable results soon.
But before we jump into the premises and conclusion, let’s clarify the use of the term leverage as meaning “efficient reusability;” and the use of a broad and liberal definition for AI that includes types of AI, like machine learning, and software associated with AI, like robotic process automation, so as to consider technologies, techniques and initiatives that are helping generate advances in AI across the federal IT market.
So, the tipping point for AI in the federal market is here today, and to blame or thank, is the combination of three sources of leverage: the prevalence of quality clouds, the issuance of federal reuse programs and policies, and the growing abundance of enabling AI-related platforms.
First, the prevalence of quality cloud services allow current government and contractors to focus more on their respective agency’s missions rather than just keeping the proverbial IT lights on. Quality clouds are the epitome of leveraging resources including: public, private, community and even hybrid clouds. These quality clouds are providing efficient and cost–effective infrastructure as a service, platform as a service and software as a service offerings, which free up time and money by eliminating (or at least reducing) the need for agencies to purchase/own/operate IT capacities that are now available from a wide range of quality cloud service providers. It is simply easier and faster now to spin up and spin down IT capacities and AI-related services based on what CSPs have designed, built and operate.
The second point of leverage is the issuance of federal reuse programs and policies. Reuse programs such as the Federal Risk and Authorization Management Program allow the federal government to create once and reuse many times an established Assessment and Authorization program and associated Risk Management Framework. This greatly reduces the time and cost associated with Federal Information Security Management Act compliance, and reuse policies such as the Defense Information Systems Agency’s Aug. 15, 2019 provisional authorization and policy. That allows defense agencies to immediately access and consume FedRAMP-authorized IT services that foster IT modernization by streamlining test, development and production activities supporting our troops.
Last but not least, the abundance of enabling AI-related platforms and cloud resources that are now commercially available and/or generally available have pragmatically increased access to AI. One example of an agencywide AI resource is the new Joint Artificial Intelligence Center, which provides critical mass of expertise to help the Defense Department harness the game-changing power of AI. JAIC’s mission is to transform the DOD by accelerating the delivery and adoption of AI, while ensuring DOD services and components have real-time access to libraries of data sets and AI tools.
Another example of enabling platforms is a data science initiative that spans academia and federal, state and local government use designed to improve critical access to data libraries and data sets. This data science initiative is the New York University Administrative Data Research Facility. ADRF is solving a common challenge to many AI, data science and deep analytics initiatives relating to the regulatory restrictions for combining or commingling disparate data sources so as to protect personally identifiable information. These restrictions are designed to protect, but they also hinder research and the application of AI by limiting the use of data sources.
However, resources such as ADRF provide secure platforms to host confidential micro-data and ensure proper data stewardship, both of which are essential to ensuring improved access to a greater number of data sources that will be needed to fuel federal IT data science and AI demands.
This leverage coming from the convergence of quality clouds, federal reuse programs and policies and enabling platforms provides the: top-cover (organizational approval); funding (resource reallocation from legacy IT cost reductions); and regulatory compliant access to technology and data. All of which creates new, efficient reusability that will allow AI to deliver results at scale in the coming days, weeks and months . . . not years.