Programmer at work (REDPIXEL.PL/

AI commission floats idea of digital service academy

The National Security Commission on Artificial Intelligence has suggested establishing a national digital service academy to train technical talent. The institution would act like the civilian equivalent of a military service academy and be paired with an effort to establish a national reserve digital corps whose members would serve on a rotational basis.

The recommendation comes from the commission’s second quarterly report  to Congress on how the U.S. government can invest in and implement AI technology.

Robert Work, former deputy secretary of defense who is now NSCAI's vice chair, said the academy would bring in people who want to serve in government and would graduate students to serve as full time federal employees at GS-7 to GS-11 pay grade. Members of the digital corps would five years at 38 days a year helping government agencies figure out how to best implement AI.

For the military, the commission wants to focus on creating a clear way to test existing service members' skills and better gauge the abilities of incoming recruits and personnel.

"We think we have a lot of talent inside the military that we just aren't aware of," Work said.

To remedy that, Work said the commission recommends a grading, via a programming proficiency test, to identify government and military workers that have software development experience. The recommendations also include a computational thinking component to the armed services' vocational aptitude battery to better identify incoming talent.

"I suspect that if we can convince the Congress to make this real and the president signs off hopefully then not only will we be successful but we'll discover that we need 10 times more. The people are there, and the talent is available," Eric Schmidt, former Google chief and current chair of the Defense Department's Innovation Advisory Board, said during a July 29 Brookings Institution virtual event.

"My experience is that people are patriotic and that you have a large number of people -- and this I think is missed in the dialogue -- 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."

Reader comments

Fri, Jul 31, 2020 SAM USA

Big Corporations have no trouble attracting and retaining highly talented computer systems people with vast knowledge because they 'Pay them Very well' and provide them with great benefits such as great Free health care coverage and great contributions towards their 401k plans and stock options. Along with Big Fat bonuses. The VA has 49,000+ medical field opening because the Private sector pays 50% more than the government pays it same tasked employees.

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