AI and machine learning can revolutionize CIA, digital director believes

Andrew Hallman, left, the director of the Digital Innovation Directorate at the CIA, appears Oct. 26 with Lisa Davis of Intel at the Digital Transformation Summit presented by Dell Technologies and produced by FedScoop. (FedScoop)

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Cloud services are a good start for digitizing the business of the CIA, but artificial intelligence and machine learning could revolutionize the agency’s ability to gather intelligence, its director of digital innovation said Thursday.

AI and machine learning “can fundamentally change the way we do business,” Andrew Hallman, head of the CIA Digital Innovation Directorate, said at Dell Technologies’ Digital Transformation Summit, produced by FedScoop.

Advances in AI and machine learning — on top of the power of the cloud, which the CIA has ferociously embraced in recent years — serve as a major boon to analysts “to make sense of our sensory environment and the signals they’re getting from that threat environment” and “to develop models for how the world behaves, to be able to provide more anticipation of unfolding events and changing conditions so that we can better equip our policymakers with the ability to effect outcomes and change the course of events,” Hallman said. “That’s a rich area for us.”

But it starts with talented personnel who already have a higher propensity for intelligence gathering and analysis, Hallman said. In his mind, AI and machine learning won’t replace the human element of intelligence — as might be the case with personnel in other sectors — but instead it will boost agency employees’ performance by eliminating some of the more minute but labor-intensive aspects of their mission.

“Ultimately what this comes down to is enabling the higher human cognition our officers have, but doing a lot of the clearing of managing the data, the many variables that are at play in complex adaptive systems, but doing a lot of that where you enable that higher cognition of officers so they don’t have to be managing the data, feeding models, training the data,” he said.

“I think that can really revolutionize what we do.”

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AI, Andrew Hallman, CIA, Cloud, Dell, intelligence, machine learning