2022 Spring Symposium Looks to Future of AI & Big Data

April 11, 2022 8:00 AM to 4:00 PM

More than 300 IC and national security professionals gathered for this year's Spring Symposium, "Making It Work: Big Data, Artificial Intelligence, and Advanced Analytics." The day-long event featured two keynote addresses and four panel discussions. Panels consisted of leaders from government and industry, whose unique perspectives examined the IC’s AIM Strategy; the importance of the Pentagon’s newly created Chief Digital and AI Officer; challenges and success stories with operationalizing AI; and the capabilities needed to make it all work.

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The Honorable Sue Gordon started us off with a keynote address entitled “Old Dogs, New Tricks,” speaking about the current threat landscape and ways to focus on the problems at hand. Positing that we have the capabilities and competitive advantages by way of the relationships established with commercial entities, Gordon advocated for new forms of sensing and surveillance as well as other needs to determine and develop structures needed. Stressing the need for vision and ideas, Gordon promoted a structure which would allow decision-makers to deliver outcomes and policies to incentivize good things to happen. Recognizing that moments like these are where solutions are found, Gordon urged participants to do the easy, important things in order to fulfill the vision consisting of those goals which are hard and important.


Panel: Gaining the AI Advantage

  • Ryan Carpenter, Program Analyst, AIM Initiative, ODNI
  • Kristen Cheman, VP for Digital and Analytical Solutions, LMI
  • Brian Mazanec, Director, Strategic Warfare and Intelligence Defense Capabilities and Management, Government Accountability Office
  • Lakshmi Raman, Chief of AI, CIA
  • Larry Hanauer (Moderator), VP for Policy, INSA

Discussing how AI is incorporated into their agency’s missions, panelists emphasized the use of AI as a shared asset among the IC. Ryan Carpenter, program analyst for the AIM initiative at ODNI, envisioned an integrative approach to AI, focused on transforming tradecraft, leading ethical and secure adoption of AI through building policies and structures of AI, and developing an AI literate workforce where AI capabilities and policies are integrated. Coordinating with ODNI to integrate resource sharing, Lakshmi Raman, Director of Artificial Intelligence Innovation at the CIA, revealed aspects of the CIA’s whole agency approach towards AI which included keeping AI as a critical topic, AI as a mission enabler, and assessing the progress and impact of AI. Despite the lack of assessment of classified programs, Brian Mazanec, Director, Strategic Warfare and Intelligence Defense Capabilities and Management from GAO, reflected on the focus areas from GAO’s most recent report, from the DoD strategy for AI to legislative requirements for comprehensive inventory of AI. Kristen Cheman, VP for Digital and Analytical Solutions at LMI, provided insight into the best practices of the private sector where goals such as accessing massive amounts of data and being able to use and trust that data lends itself actualizing the search for the easy and important goals mentioned in the keynote.

Panel: Operationalizing AI 

  • Brian Drake, Federal Chief Technology Officer, Accrete AI
  • Sarah Hengemuhle, Chief of the National Counterterrorism Center (NCTC) Futures Group, Office of Information Technology Services
  • Dr. James Lampton, NSA
  • Jim McCool, Director, Data and Digital Innovation Directorate, NGA
  • Teresa Smetzer (Moderator), Chair, INSA Technology and Innovation Council; CEO, Smetzer Associates

To focus scaling efforts, Jim McCool, Director of Data and Digital at NGA, suggested we place ourselves in customer shoes and what they want their outcomes to be, whether that be an analyst or a warfighter. Sarah Hengemuhle, Director of the Data Science, and Innovation Group at NCTC advocated for focusing on the fundamentals to achieve operational success and establishing a firm foundation to adapt to the evolving nature of data, particularly as the agency shifts its culture following a scientific model to approach problems and incorporating outside solutions into legacy systems. Dr. James Lampton from the Capabilities Directorate at NSA also emphasized the need to innovate with an eye towards developing solutions to what are important to agencies. Brian Drake, Federal Chief Technology Officer of Accrete AI Government, reminded us to have a vision to develop ideas, delegate tools when needed, and consider ethical implications up front when thinking about operationalizing standards.

Afternoon Keynote: Dr. Catherine Marsh, Director, IARPA

Dr. Catherine Marsh started our afternoon by describing how the Intelligence Advanced Research Projects Activity (IARPA) invests in research programs to support the IC and give the United States the intelligence advantage. Pursuing a diverse portfolio to holistically tackle the complex and fast-paced problems too large for a single agency, Dr. Marsh acknowledged that IARPA needs to engage with disruptive, game-changing technologies based on metrics-driven decisions to push the envelope. Additionally, Dr. Marsh emphasized the necessity of having the right voices at the table from the beginning to ensure the agencies target the appropriate problems.


Panel: The Big Data Challenge

  • Dr. John Beieler, Director of S&T, ODNI
  • Heather Martin, Deputy Director for Plans, Programs and Strategy, Data and Digital Innovation, NGA
  • Kate Zimmerman, Chief Data Scientist, HawkEye360
  • Chitra Sivanadam (Moderator), Chief Technology Officer, RGi


Our afternoon panel started with a discussion of what the IC needs to succeed in terms of AI and big data. Moderated by Chitra Sivanadam, RGi Chief Technology Officer, the Capabilities panel continued with the theme of setting a strong AI policy foundation to best support mission agencies. Topics included the necessity of preparing and educating the IC workforce as to the proper boundaries of what is and is not AI while creating a way to engage data scientists and engineers to support the national security mission. Additionally, public-private sector can model development for agencies which may lead to products that support mission success in unforeseen ways.

Fireside Chat: "Making It Work"

  • Ylli Bajraktari. CEO, Special Competitive Studies Project
  • Nancy Morgan, IC Chief Data Officer, ODNI
  • John Doyon (Moderator), Executive Vice President, INSA

In this closing chat, Ylli Bajraktari, CEO of Special Competitive Studies Project advocated for a Chief Technology Officer for the entire Intelligence Community to manage interagency efforts on AI. Mr. Bajraktari also emphasized the need to integrate AI talented individuals, suggesting a digital civic corps, like the army reserve where technically talented individuals can join up for a couple of weeks a year, creating a new pathway to hiring talented people and allowing the government to take advantage of their expertise. Nancy Morgan, IC Chief Data Officer of ODNI, reiterated the importance of public-private talent exchange programs and the development of data and cyber skills inside the government. She urged technical and non-technical personnel to find a way to speak the same language to create successful cross-disciplinary programs. Additionally, both panelists stressed the nature of the competition with China to make AI work with Mr. Bajraktari highlighting the critical window between now and 2030 where Beijing has the potential to jump ahead of the US in developing and integrating AI due to their government-civilian fusion as contrasted with the United States’ need to create public-private partnerships, while Ms. Morgan stressed the need to collaborate with partners in the domestic space and those abroad to help make AI work.


Thank you to our sponsors!