With the importance of cybersecurity and IT taking center stage across the Federal landscape, three agency chief technology officers (CTO) talked this week about actions they are taking to help meet their organizations’ cybersecurity needs.

During a webinar hosted by Federal News Network on June 27, the CTOs from military and civilian agencies detailed the type of emerging technology and training they are integrating into their technology ecosystem.

Space Force and Data Management

Lisa Costa, chief technology and innovation officer (CTIO) at U.S. Space Force, said the organization is using its capabilities to deal with “enduring competition” from foreign adversaries by focusing on the service branches “guardian” personnel.

“Some of the ways that we’re doing that … is helping codify requirements for operational test training and integration to make sure that our guardians are ready,” said Costa.

Alongside the tall order of needing to continually employ science and technology to further the Space Force mission is now to better use data across the organization, Costa said.

“Improving space domain awareness, doing all of the data management, the integration of the data fabric in space … really ensuring that those joint forces have the data that they need and the situational awareness that they need,” said Costa in describing the organization’s requirements.

Costa also talked about the importance of investing in Space Force personnel to meet the organization’s mission goals.

“Space Force is inherently a highly technical agency or service, and we need to ensure that our guardians – both military and civilian – are digitally fluent. So, we have contracted out with numerous companies to provide over 30,000 digital classes,” Costa said. 

NOAA: Better Data, Better Decision Making

Frank Indiviglio, CTO at the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA), made it clear that a driving force at the agency is to connect scientists and metrologists to make better-informed decisions.

“There’s a program called EPIC [Earth Prediction Innovation Center] with NOAA and they’re using things like cloud to really engage with the community and get the best knowledge into the modeling, and really move operational models forward,” said Indiviglio.

Other programs that the agency is using include the NOAA Open Data Dissemination (NODD) Program, which is enabling “everybody to interact with NOAA’s data to … engage with a citizen scientist or an interested party,” said Indiviglio.

He said the agency is also using drone technology to increase the amount of data that the agency can obtain in dangerous situations like hurricanes.

“Things like ocean drones can take … sea surface conditions from a hurricane, and you can’t do that with a person,” he said. “Those kinds of platforms really will extend the forecaster’s ability  … to really understand events and better prepare for the future,” said Indiviglio.

FEMA Incident Command and Incident Management

Ted Okada, CTO for Mission Support at the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA), talked about how communication is vital to how the agency functions, and how FEMA is leveraging Artificial Intelligence (AI) and large language models (LLM).

“Currently, within the agency we look at … generative AI with regards to major [and] minor destroyed properties after a hurricane. We’ll look at rooflines to determine that and that actually gets into major decision making that goes into a presidential declaration,” said Okada.

Although AI has been a valuable tool for the agency, Okada also warned about challenges his agency will be facing when it comes to data and AI.

“What are the intrinsic biases towards the data – that’s obviously a hint at some of the challenges with regard to AI and large language models that we’re looking at,” said Okada.

He said the ultimate goal with the use of AI and LLMs is to “empower our workforce to actually make wise decisions and bring the sum total of who they are in their life experiences to bear in order to make the right decision.”

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Jose Rascon
Jose Rascon
Jose Rascon is a MeriTalk Staff Reporter covering the intersection of government and technology.