The head of the General Services Administration said her agency will play a large role in executing the vision laid out in the White House’s long-awaited executive order on ensuring safety, security, trust and openness in artificial intelligence, signed by President Biden earlier this week.
GSA Administrator Robin Carnahan told FedScoop in an interview at the signing ceremony for the executive order that the policy will push her agency to protect government data and use it responsibly within AI tools, encourage experimentation of the technology — particularly generative AI — and increase the pipeline of AI talent using additional resources.
“We’re very focused on protecting our data and figuring out how to use our datasets in ways that are responsible and aren’t subjected to misrepresentations of other things. So that’s the number one goal from the EO,” Carnahan told FedScoop.
“We’re also very focused on experimentation. We’re encouraging people to try new AI projects — we’re tracking it very closely but we’re also encouraging experimentation of AI. In fact just yesterday, I signed up for access to be able to use these popular generative AI tools myself – three or four of them that I was allowed to use. So talk to me about that in a few weeks,” she added.
GSA, which plays a key role in the federal government’s procurement of software, could leverage its buying data with AI tools to get lower costs and better value for federal agencies.
“We want to use AI to advance our mission and do things more effectively. We do a lot of procurement, for example, so there’s lots of potential for using our huge amounts of data and using AI to get the best prices and best value for the agencies that we represent. And also open up opportunities for businesses,” Carnahan said.
Carnahan said earlier this year that GSA is “laser-focused” on hiring talent to get the right expertise needed to update the agency’s processes and systems. Biden’s AI executive order has only intensified and clarified the need to do this as soon as possible, particularly when it comes to drastically increasing the number of skilled AI workers in the federal government.
“One of the things that we’re tasked with doing in the EO, along with some other agencies, is to really spend time recruiting talent into government. We’ve got a couple of places to do that with like the Presidential Innovation Fellows program and the U.S. Digital Corps — both of which are going to be targeting specifically bringing more AI talent in the government and that’s both for GSA, but as you know, they will get spread around all federal agencies,” said Carnahan.
She added that GSA plans to “incrementally expand” the two tech talent programs for the purposes of executing the AI executing order’s requirement of meeting the demand for AI skilled workers.
Carnahan earlier this year said federal agencies have the money and momentum to improve service delivery and customer experience, which she hopes can be achieved more quickly through AI tools and their underlying infrastructure powered by powerful cloud resources. The modernization of the Federal Risk and Authorization Management Program (FedRAMP) will be key to that.
“The other thing we’re very focused on is FedRAMP. So it’s our job to be able to, you know, get FedRAMP portable for these cloud resources. And there are gonna be more and more of these AI-related asks. So making sure that’s a streamlined process, so people can have access to tools is going to be important,” the administrator said.