The Government Accountability Office (GAO) is using its Innovation Lab to leverage artificial intelligence (AI) and machine learning (ML) technologies to identify and alleviate burnout in the Federal workforce ranks due to the coronavirus pandemic, a GAO official said during an Oct. 5 event organized by Federal News Network.

Tim Persons, Chief Scientist and Managing Director of GAO’s Science, Technology Assessment, and Analytics team, said his team is acting as the “doers, analyzers, and foresighters” for AI in the Federal government and Congress.

He talked about GAO’s work with its Innovation Lab, and said the agency has plans in the next two to three years to move the production from a small startup to a more scaled operation.

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“For us it’s going to be a lot of prototypes that are coming out,” Persons continued, “and a productionization process that puts it in and scales it across the enterprise, the idea being we are solving some key challenges.”

A top priority for the GAO is Federal employee burnout.

“Our number one priority is culture building on [AI], and it starts with trying to figure out the problems,” Persons said. “Why do we have burned out Feds, and are there things in their workspace that need to be done by a machine? It’s going to be more accurate and it’s going to be faster.”

“It’s going to allow them to be greater and better versions of themselves. It is a human capital enhancement type of approach,” he said.

One AI tool GAO is actively using to make its employees’ jobs easier – and the agency’s customer experience smoother – is a writing style tool. The prototype of that tool writes in a “GAO way,” Persons explained, adding that the tool incorporates sentiment analysis that will take the words from Federal agencies and translate them into accessible language for both lawmakers and clients who utilize the watchdog’s reports.

AI ‘Wingman’

At the same event, Air Force Chief Data and AI Officer Maj. Gen. John Olson, called AI the department’s “North Star” that is driving its vision for information and decision advantage.

The Air Force is aiming for AI readiness in 2025, and AI leadership and competitiveness in 2027, Olson said.

“That means becoming a global leader in responsible AI and the ethical application,” he said. “We view this as the three R’s: responsible AI, robust AI, and resilient AI.” Those elements, he said, are essential for the Defense Department to compete and win against global adversaries.

One priority the Air Force is actively working to achieve is called “wingman AI.”

The concept, Olson said, is to enhance AI to make airmen and guardians more effective by teaming humans with machines to get information and decision advantage and make actionable outcomes.

“The rate pace of the application of both data analytics, AI, ML, and deep learning capabilities are a pervasive focus across the Department of the Air Force,” Olson continued, “It’s absolutely essential to work collaboratively, and we think this is a team sport driving to deliver those outcomes at a very rapid pace – making sure that we are responsible, robust, and resilient all throughout the journey.”

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Cate Burgan
Cate Burgan
Cate Burgan is a MeriTalk Senior Technology Reporter covering the intersection of government and technology.