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DOD Focuses on Talent Pipeline, Career Paths to Attract AI Pros

A photo illustration depicting a soldier wearing virtual reality glasses with a chess set in the foreground.
Virtual Reality
A soldier wears virtual reality glasses; a graphic depiction of a chess set sits in the foreground. Illustration created by NIWC Pacific.
Photo By: Courtesy Photo
VIRIN: 210128-N-N1809-001C

Pentagon officials are focusing on ways to attract artificial intelligence experts as the Defense Department plots its course for leveraging the transformational technology to enable warfighters.

Margaret Palmieri, deputy chief digital and artificial intelligence officer, indicated on Wednesday that her office is taking targeted action to attract those with a passion for data analytics and artificial intelligence to apply their skills in service to their country.

"We know that DOD offers an incredible mission set for those who are interested in this field, and we want to attract people to the department to strengthen our efforts," she said.

Palmieri previewed specific steps that the Chief Digital and Artificial Intelligence Office is taking to attract the right talent during the National Defense Industrial Association's Emerging Technologies for Defense conference in Washington.  

Among them is the recent addition of approximately 10 new work roles within the DOD's cyber workforce framework that will better align critical skill sets with data and AI roles within the department.

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Operation Noble Defender
Personnel from a West Coast-based Naval Special Warfare command operate an R80D SkyRaider drone during Operation Noble Defender in Alaska, Sept. 13, 2022.
Photo By: Navy Petty Officer 1st Class Alex Smedegard
VIRIN: 220913-N-XW558-1044

"This is huge, because if you're an individual inside of DOD who has a knack for data analytics and AI, or a passion for it, there's no position coded specifically for you," she said. "You have to look for a financial management position where you can apply those [skills] in the financial arena, or you have to look for a computer science position that has you working in a specific mission area or on a specific technology."

Palmieri noted that by identifying specific roles that require data and AI expertise, the DOD will be able ensure the opportunities are more visible to those both inside and outside of the department.

The CDAO is also working to provide a defined career path and network for AI professionals in DOD and improving the department's pipeline for tapping into new talent. 

"We know that this field requires constant refresh and learning, and industry and academia are on the cutting edge of that learning," she said. "We want to make it easier for people to come into government, serve some time, go back out into industry, learn something else [and] come back in if they want to." 

"All of our retirement systems and processes inside of government are set up to do this," she said. "We just have to take advantage of it, and we have to gain the muscle memory so that we can do it faster and better and at scale."

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MQ-9 Simulator
A pilot with the 492nd Attack Squadron instructs students from the University of California, San Diego in an MQ-9 simulator at March Air Reserve Base, Calif., Feb. 17, 2023.
Photo By: Air National Guard Staff Sgt. Joseph Pagan
VIRIN: 230217-Z-WT190-2083

Palmieri said talent is a key component of the CDAO's strategy for delivering AI capabilities to the warfighter. Such expertise paves the way for emerging technology to offer potentially game-changing capabilities that will enable leaders to make the best decisions in defending the homeland, deterring aggression and prevailing in conflict when needed.

"Through the CDAO's mission of accelerating DOD's adoption of AI from the boardroom to the battlefield, we're on a path to deliver decision advantage to DOD leaders and service members in a way they've really never experienced before," she said.

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