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AI and the Federal Government: What Contractors Need to Know Blog Feature
Stephen Denby

By: Stephen Denby on April 17th, 2024

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AI and the Federal Government: What Contractors Need to Know

GSA Schedule | Technology | 4 Min Read

In the ever-evolving world of technology, we have seen a rise in the use of Artificial Intelligence (AI). This newfound technology has led to the expansion of capabilities in people's everyday lives and across the federal government marketplace. Many contractors have begun to use AI within their proposal writing, and agencies have used AI tools to further their missions whether it’s in healthcare, transportation, cybersecurity, or first responder support. This blog will look at what AI looks like in the government space and how contractors can take advantage of it.

The Evolution of AI

First, let’s dive a little deeper into the background of AI. AI combines three disciplines—math, computer science, and cognitive science—to mimic human behavior through various technologies. AI has already changed the way that businesses interact with their customers. Entire markets have changed around this technology to provide fast, efficient, personalized service.

In the past few years, there has been an effort to use AI to enhance and support the many ways the government serves its people. We’ve seen what AI can do in the business world, and now its use across the federal government is transforming the ways agencies meet their missions.

These AI tools and techniques support human capabilities to process large amounts of information and reveal insights supporting better decisions. Most federal agencies know that input data volumes are increasing relentlessly and are not being handled thoroughly. In the past, we have blamed this kind of shortfall on a lack of personnel, supplies, or equipment. AI will enable the agencies to handle millions or billions of data inputs with a feasible level of personnel and funding.

Government Use Cases of AI

AI use in the government is essentially endless, but let’s explore a few ways this technology can transform the way government agencies operate:

  • The Department of Veteran’s Affairs (VA) can use AI in VA hospitals to perform remote surgeries in more rural areas.
  • The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) uses AI to analyze upcoming weather hazards.
  • The Transportation Security Administration (TSA) uses AI led touchless machines to verify a passenger’s identity.

How Government Agencies Navigate AI  

One thing we all know about AI is there are tremendous values but there are also risks. The government needs clarity and guidance around what AI can and cannot do and how it applies to federal agencies’ missions. To answer these questions, GSA has created a user guide for AI use in government, so decision makers can see what AI could mean for their agencies and how to invest and build in AI capabilities.

One of the first points GSA’s AI guide makes is the importance of not “bolting-on” AI to existing practices. This upsets workflows and can be counterproductive. Instead, agencies are encouraged to incorporate AI as a core capability. This is accomplished through 2 goals:

  1. Enhancing mission and business unit ability to meet their objectives means including AI knowledge in mission and program offices.
  2. Support the AI practitioner’s effectiveness by creating a technical AI resource with the tools needed to get the work done.

The first goal is stressing that the AI workforce should be spread throughout the agency, including mission centers and program offices. The second goal ensures the AI workforce has the necessary resources to work effectively throughout the agency, including having a one-stop-shop resource for all the AI tools. The guide also stresses that establishing an experienced AI team both from internal and external sources is crucial. Ironically, AI is all about the right people.

So, let’s assume now that agencies are staffed with the right AI personnel educated on how the organization operates, its primary goals, and the current operating model to deliver on that mission. How are they going to do this safely?

The federal government's mission is to serve the public. The government must take extra precautions to ensure that AI is used responsibly. The challenge is that AI is evolving so quickly that frameworks, tools, and guidance must be continuously updated and improved as we learn more. Each AI project should be directly linked to an agency challenge with expected outcomes and benefits identified early on.

GSA's AI guide goes on for several chapters, so to fully understand how it applies to agencies, we suggest you read it through

AI Adoption within the Government

Recently, there has been a strong emphasis on making data more streamlined and accessible for contractors. AI has helped assist agencies with these processes. Government research projects and pilots are all looking to improve the function of our government, be it via a better chatbot to help with customer service or to detect cybersecurity threats faster and more efficiently.

We expect AI adoption to grow even more within the next few years and we must adapt to take full advantage of these technological advancements.

How Government Contractors Can take Advantage of AI

AI adoption in government is two-fold—both agencies and contractors have been affected. It is crucial that agencies further adopt the use of AI, which contractors can also take advantage of. Government agencies need to source AI solutions from somewhere and will inevitably turn to contractors to fulfill their needs.

Identifying the tools to turn AI into future opportunities for your company is essential. Think about your mission and business objectives and which tasks to support those objectives could be done better by adding AI techniques.

Preparing for Future Contracting Opportunities

AI is going to continue to grow in the government space, and if you want to be a part of it, it’s important you have an avenue to sell your solutions, such as a GSA Multiple Award Schedule (MAS) contract. If you are interested in obtaining a GSA Schedule or need help managing your current GSA contract, please reach out. Winvale would be happy to assist you with your government contracting needs.

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About Stephen Denby

Stephen Denby is a Proposal Writer at The Winvale Group focusing on government contracting and federal acquisition opportunities for businesses. He is a native of Charlottesville, Virginia and graduated from James Madison University with his Bachelor of Science in Public Policy and Public Administration.