Top officials with the National Security Commission on Artificial Intelligence (NSCAI) on July 29 detailed their recommendation that Congress create a Digital Service Academy to increase the government’s overall technological capabilities.

“The people are there, the talent is available,” said NSCAI Chair Eric Schmidt, a former CEO at Google. “This is a fitness problem.”

“My experience is that people are patriotic and that you have … a very large number of people who want to serve the country that they love and the reason that they’re not doing it, is there’s no program that makes sense to them,” said Schmidt, speaking at a July 29 event hosted by the Brookings Institution.

Schmidt called the commission’s recommendation to start a Digital Service Academy that would largely target the civilian workforce a “very modest proposal.” It is one of over 30 second-quarter recommendations the commission presented to Congress earlier this month, in its ongoing congressionally-mandated work to advance the development of AI and associated technologies for the national security and defense needs of the United States.

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“The whole purpose of this idea is to say, ‘Let’s have one category, the U.S. Digital Service Academy, which would bring in folks that want to serve in government as a career,’” said NSCAI vice chair Robert Work, a former Deputy Secretary of Defense from 2014 to 2017. Speaking during the Brookings event, Work said that graduates of the academy could start on a GS-7 track and work their way up.


He also noted the commission’s recommendation for a National Reserve Digital Corps, which “would, in effect, would be our reserves.” The commission has proposed a five-year commitment for corps members.

Neither recommendation is included in this year’s House or Senate defense bills.

One member of Congress praised the commission’s overall work in bringing the national security and technology communities together.

Rep. Jim Langevin, D-R.I., who chairs the House Armed Services Committee’s Subcommittee on Intelligence and Emerging Threats and Capabilities, called the commission a “positive example” of collaboration between the national security and technology communities.

“There’s hope,” said Rep. Langevin during an event hosted by the National Security Institute.  He called the commission a “collaborative effort that leveraged the disparate expertise to offer some creative ideas.”

Rep. Langevin and Rep. Elise Stefanik, R-N.Y., have proposed an amendment to the House Appropriations bill,  H.R. 7617, to increase the funding for the commission by $2.5 million.

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Dwight Weingarten
Dwight Weingarten
Dwight Weingarten is a MeriTalk Staff Reporter covering the intersection of government and technology.