Having diversity in the Federal IT workforce and a new approach to ideas is key to the United States’ advantage over adversaries, Federal agency leaders said today at an event organized by GovernmentCIO.

“In America, we celebrate a diverse pool of workforce that come in. And that diversity of thought, is an asymmetric advantage that our nation holds over some of our adversaries that don’t celebrate some of those same values,” said Brian Gattoni, CTO at the Cybersecurity and Infrastructure Security Agency (CISA). “If we can harness that in the workforce that’s applied to these problems, we stand a really good chance of winning and quickly.”

Jill Crisman, the principal director for artificial intelligence, R&E, at the Department of Defense (DoD), agreed with Gattoni, saying her agency needs a diverse level of expertise in order to succeed.

“The Department of Defense is huge, so we have a lot of talent,” Crisman said. “But as far as the technical expertise for software development, or even AI development itself, there’s a huge range of expertise that you need, there are things you can do to adapt particular machine learning algorithms to try to tackle new problems.”

“It’s not just a broad background of people that we need, but also a broad swath of technical skills, and, and a willingness to serve the country and wanting to defend the country,” she added.

Lt. Gen. Michael Groen, director of the Joint Artificial Intelligence Center (JAIC) at DoD, stressed that a diverse, skilled workforce helps his organization to think outside of the box, such as using AI to solve problems.

“If you take a different approach to your process, an AI data-driven approach to your process, whatever your process is, imagine how much better it could be,” Groen said.

“It’s that kind of thinking, stepping away from how you do business today, and thinking about how you should be doing business. And if we get our process owners to do that, I think the implementation of all of these recommendations kind of flows naturally from that because people are going to want to have trained workforces, they’re going to want to have secure platforms, they’re going to want to have ethical foundations that really result in trusted AI ecosystem.”

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Grace Dille
Grace Dille
Grace Dille is MeriTalk's Assistant Managing Editor covering the intersection of government and technology.