The Department of State is thinking about jumping onto the generative artificial intelligence wave by conducting market research on using the emerging technology to write contracts.
In a request for information published Wednesday, State announced that a trio of its bureaus wants industry feedback about possibly using generative AI and machine learning capabilities to help with basic contract writing.
On top of this, State wants to glean “insight into the current hurdles and security considerations to introducing generative and natural language processing AI onto the Department’s network” through the RFI process.
Generative AI has exploded in popularity recently with the emergence of ChatGPT and other similar products that can generate new content, such as text or images, based on their training, which can include the use of large language models.
State’s bureaus of Information Resource Management — its CIO’s office — Consular Affairs, and International Narcotics and Law Enforcement are leading the effort.
“DOS business operations rely on outdated technology and manually intensive processes that result in unexploited data resources, wasted labor hours, and gross inefficiencies,” the RFI states. “The goal of embedding AI technology into an existing and recurring process is to reduce inefficiencies from manual laborious tasks, simplifying workflows, and improving the accuracy of repetitive tasks in the market research and acquisition planning phases while also addressing the nuances of IT-acquisitions.”
Currently, contracting officers typically copy and paste information from previous contracts to save time, State says in the document. But this can lead to errors or introduce risks, like “creating opportunities to exclude mandatory cybersecurity requirements while incorporating outdated provisions and clauses.”
The ideal solution would prompt a user to write a problem statement for the acquisition at hand and the generative AI solution would “generate a complete, draft PR package for any type of IT purchase, for a government procurement professional to review for potential edits, prior to submission in the contracting writing system,” the RFI explains.
The goal is this would not only reduce costs, manual labor and the chance of errors but also improve decision-making and deliver better contract outcomes, the department believes.
State admits there are some constraining factors that could limit moving forward with generative AI, including that the technology hasn’t been approved for use by the department, and the department doesn’t have a published AI policy yet. And as is the case with any federal RFI, the department is cl
Interested parties have until July 17 to respond to State’s RFI.
Secretary of State Antony Blinken is a major advocate for the U.S. being on the cutting edge of adopting emerging technologies like AI for global diplomacy. In January, Blinken kicked off operations of a new Office of the Special Envoy for Critical and Emerging Technology dedicated to the intersection of technology and diplomacy. And the department already has an extensive inventory of AI applications.
“We want the internet to remain a transformative force for learning, for connection, for economic growth, not a tool of repression,” Blinken said then. “We want to shape the standards that govern new technology, so they ensure quality, protect consumer health and safety, facilitate trade, respect people’s rights. We want to make sure the technology works for democracy, fighting back against disinformation, standing up for internet freedom, reducing the misuse of surveillance technology. And we want to promote cooperation, advancing this agenda tech by tech, issue by issue, with democratic partners by our side.”