The U.S. Army is looking into talent exchange programs in 2023 to gain expertise from technology experts that have worked in the private sector and can offer fresh ideas, according to Under Secretary Gabriel Camarillo.

One of the Army’s goals for 2023 is to upskill its workforce, Camarillo said today at the AFCEA NOVA Army IT Day, while declaring he is a “big fan” of the idea of talent exchange programs.

While the Army does a great job of putting officers and civilians to work in industry, he explained that it gets “a little more challenging” the other way around.

“What I’m interested in working on in 2023 is how do we have talent exchange programs [for] people with specific industry expertise to work in the Army,” Camarillo said. “It could be software development expertise, it could be data science… cybersecurity could be another one, where we can benefit from experience that the industry has on how to tackle some of these problems.”

“The challenge, of course, has always been making sure that we do so in a way that’s consistent with all of our Federal laws and regulations,” he continued. “I’m confident we can work our way through that, and I’m looking forward to working with my team on how to do it.”

Camarillo pointed to Ellen Lord, the former under secretary of defense for acquisition and sustainment under the last administration, who set up a talent exchange program that brought industry to work in the Defense Department (DoD) under various assignments. Going forward, he said the Army should look to Lord’s model and find ways to tailor it.

In a press conference following his keynote address, Camarillo told reporters that he would first focus on software development for a talent exchange program of his own. “Software development expertise is something that you can never have enough of,” he said.

The under secretary explained that the Army has a lot of talented senior-level employees that have also worked on the private sector side, but stressed it is “absolutely critical” to bring in new talent “at the levels where they can influence and help shape our approaches and our strategies moving forward.”

“I think one of the challenges we have is updating our approaches, understanding what are industry’s best practices, and leveraging folks who have done it in the private sector side who have not only familiarity with Agile software development practices, but also just know how to translate our processes in the Army and in the Department of Defense to that approach,” Camarillo said.

Red teaming plays an important part in that, he told reporters, in order to develop new ways of approaching a problem.

“We may develop a strategy and then kind of an acquisition strategy to a particular software effort in a certain way, but then when it makes contact with what industry can do, they might have a much more different, smarter, more expedient and efficient way of getting there,” the under secretary said. “And so, I think having that type of insight is going to be really helpful.”

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Grace Dille
Grace Dille
Grace Dille is a MeriTalk Senior Technology Reporter covering the intersection of government and technology.