March 12, 2024

By Michael G.

As a long-term Federal Government Information Technology and Cybersecurity contractor, we understand the immense potential and challenges associated with the use of Artificial Intelligence (AI) in organizational operations. AI has the capacity to revolutionize how both government agencies and contractors operate, offering numerous benefits along with some inherent risks. Here, we will discuss many usages and benefits of AI, as well as some challenges and inherent risks.

In Federal Government organizations, AI can be leveraged for a range of use cases, from task automation to predictive analytics, plus AI can even help strengthen an organization’s cybersecurity. To enhance the data analytics that agencies perform, AI can be employed to help analyze huge data sets to identify trends, patterns, and anomalies. This capability can enhance the decision-making process for the government in areas such as public health, national security, and economic forecasting. AI algorithms can also be used to predict future events or trends based on historical data, enabling agencies to allocate resources more effectively. Predictive threat activity, virtual or material, may help agencies focus their resources on assets of high value and attacker interest, so they know where to look to close vulnerabilities.

On the contractor side, like any enabling software, AI can be used to enhance internal functions such as in human resources, accounting, contracts, tech support, as well as management. Properly leveraging AI can yield significant benefits in terms of efficiency and productivity. A use case for AI that is common to any organization, government or contractor, could be repetitive task automation. Routine administrative tasks in HR, accounting, finance, or marketing and communications could easily be automated using AI, freeing up knowledge workers to spend their time on more strategic, beneficial activities.

An area of concern for both government and contractors involves AI implementation challenges and risks. Both sets of entities often navigate complex regulatory frameworks, and when implementing AI technologies, both must ensure that they adhere to laws governing data protection, transparency, and accountability. A huge risk area for both the public and private sectors is data privacy and security. Proper information safeguarding to maintain PII and similar sensitive data is paramount. Assuring and potentially certifying, that deployed AI systems demonstrate compliance with information privacy regulations presents both a significant challenge and risk.

There are many positives to standard business use of AI, both in the government and contracting arenas. AI-enhanced systems can lead to increased operational efficiency, reduced costs, and improved service delivery. However, a major hurdle remains. There is a shortage of skilled personnel to develop, implement, and maintain AI systems. Training and recruiting AI experts represents no minor challenge for effective use of AI.

Obviously, several negative risks must be addressed when implementing AI technologies. Examples include personnel facing job displacement with the automation of routine tasks, or the misuse of AI in surveillance causing privacy breaches and eroding trust in IT systems. Also, note that an overreliance on unmonitored AI could make systems vulnerable to hacking, manipulation, and adversarial attacks.

While AI has the potential to deliver long-term cost savings and efficiency improvements, there are also upfront and ongoing costs associated with its adoption. Some key cost considerations involve the initial investment (software and infrastructure), training and education for personnel to best use AI, life-cycle management (e.g. costs of implementation, maintenance, compliance and security of the systems), as well as the costs for integrating AI technologies into the existing environment. It is important, therefore, for contractors and government agencies to conduct a thorough cost-benefit analysis before embarking on AI projects. While the benefits of AI can be substantial in terms of improved efficiency, better decision-making, and cost savings in the long run, these benefits need to be weighed against the total costs of employing AI. Careful planning, budgeting, and ROI assessment are essential to ensure that AI initiatives are cost-effective and aligned with an organization’s objectives and priorities.

In summary, AI holds an enormous potential to transform the operations of the Federal Government and the contractors serving it. AI can offer numerous benefits in terms of efficiency, decision-making, and public service delivery. That said, it also comes with significant challenges and risks, especially related to privacy, misuse, and regulatory compliance. Managing these challenges while harnessing the benefits of AI will remain a critical concern for both agencies and contractors going forward.