State Department is launching an internal chatbot

The agency’s CIO said the rollout of a generative AI chatbot is in response to staffer requests for streamlining processes like translation services.
Kelly Fletcher, CIO of the State Department, delivers a keynote at FedTalks 2023. (FedScoop)

The Department of State is rolling out a chatbot for internal use, in a move that the agency’s top IT official said is largely in response to employee requests for help in streamlining processes such as translating. 

Kelly Fletcher, State’s chief information officer, said during a speech Tuesday at Palo Alto Networks’s Public Sector Ignite event that the creation of a generative AI chatbot is something that the agency’s workforce is asking for as publicly available tools like ChatGPT become more popular.

“The thing I hear most that people want is, they want a chatbot,” Fletcher said. “We’re gonna let people experiment, we’re gonna see what they use it for and then we are gonna move to building things that are more custom fit for State.”

Fletcher provided examples of how the gen AI tool could help with translation needs, including the loading of a 30-page document written in Russian into a model and asking for a summary in English, and inputting public information from other countries — such as regional news — into systems and receiving an English summary.


In addition to improving user experience and increasing productivity “dramatically,” Fletcher said that having this tool — a pilot effort led by the Office of Management Strategy and Solutions Center for Analytics and the Bureau of Information Resource Management — could enhance cybersecurity, since employees would be using the chatbot on the agency’s secured network.

“We can load public information into publicly available chatbots, get a summary, get some hints, get started. But I want to do that with data that’s unclassified but specific to the State Department, where it wouldn’t be appropriate for it to get hoovered up into the world,” Fletcher said. “What I don’t want is State Department data leaving the State Department environment.”

Separately, in its AI use case inventory, the agency noted that the Bureau of Information Resource Management is “planning to incorporate” a virtual agent or chatbot — provided by ServiceNow as part of its platform as a service — into existing applications to offer users support and connect users with data requests.

The agency declined to comment further on Fletcher’s speech.

This story was updated April 4, 2024, after State corrected the bureau in its AI use case inventory that is planning to incorporate a virtual agent or chatbot. The update also included newly provided information regarding the bureaus piloting the new chatbot.

Caroline Nihill

Written by Caroline Nihill

Caroline Nihill is a reporter for FedScoop in Washington, D.C., covering federal IT. Her reporting has included the tracking of artificial intelligence governance from the White House and Congress, as well as modernization efforts across the federal government. Caroline was previously an editorial fellow for Scoop News Group, writing for FedScoop, StateScoop, CyberScoop, EdScoop and DefenseScoop. She earned her bachelor’s in media and journalism from the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill after transferring from the University of Mississippi.

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