Fed Leaders Agree: AI Success Starts with Data

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Jan 08, 2024

Federal government agencies are buzzing with discussion, research, and planning for artificial intelligence and its capabilities. Congress is currently considering at least 256 bills that mention AI in some form. But the success of any initiative that uses AI technologies depends on one thing: Data. Agencies must begin preparing today for a future where AI tools are a part of their daily workflow and how they improve mission outcomes.

Federal leaders discussed data strategies for improving agency mission outcomes during a Jan. 4, 2024 webinar titled “Data to Decisions: The Role of AI and Analytics,” moderated by Jason Miller of Federal News Network. The panel of agency and industry leaders included:

  • Melanie Krause, Chief Data and Analytics Officer, Internal Revenue Service
  • Austin Gerig, Chief Data Officer, Securities and Exchange Commission
  • Jessica Palatka, Director of HR Management and Chief Human Capital Officer, Commerce Department
  • Julie Chapman, Vice President and Head of Legal, North America at LexisNexis

Melanie Krause of the IRS said using data to drive decisions is not only a key focus but quickly becoming core to how the tax agency works. To get the full view of what is happening with the taxpayer, they’ve been able to build out capabilities that use large language models to mine the text of call transcripts and then join that with taxpayer information to better understand where people are getting stuck in the agency’s process. Krause said analyzing these integrated datasets lets the IRS identify taxpayers who are experiencing the most burden.

Like the IRS, the Securities and Exchange Commission is using data in their AI tools that’s more extractive than generative. Austin Gerig said the agency has provided data internally and externally to help drive decisions for some time. “You can use data to target examinations, either across groups or individually.” He goes on to say “… if we find evidence of wrongdoing, or in the process of trying to find evidence that our rules are being broken, we can use data to do that.” Almost all data that comes to the SEC is used by employees for investigations or by data scientists, economists, or attorneys.

A continued challenge for public and private sector organizations is having skilled teams to use the data and the AI tools. To meet that need, companies and agencies are focused on upskilling and reskilling the workforce. Jessica Palatka at the Commerce Department said one of her goals is to make sure the agency’s workforce has the skillsets to support data. Palatka said, “Where my particular interest comes into play, cultivating a modern data skills workforce and coordinating a collaborative data culture. Those last two are of particular importance to me being the Chief Human Capital Officer.”

Julie Chapman, head of legal for North America at LexisNexis, said agencies can take a range of actions to improve their confidence and use of data in AI models and tools. For example, she said walling off data in the large language models can improve an organization’s data security and enforce privacy requirements. “You have to make sure the content is reliable content .…” She added the key for many organizations is to start by cleaning up their data so analytics and AI can be successful.

The success of any AI initiative depends on one thing – data. These leaders agreed that agencies need solid data architectures, employees with data literacy, and the ability to address data privacy and security challenges.

(The webinar recording can be viewed on the Federal News Network site.  Free registration is required.)




  • Carolyn Watson
    Carolyn Watson is a former federal IT program manager with 20+ years of experience in information systems technology with companies like Citizant, SAIC, and Dickstein Schapiro. She supported quality management and production release readiness on enterprise systems such as IRS e-File Services. She is a certified Program Managment Professional (PMP) and graduated from Averett University.
    View all posts govCDOiq.org

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