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Air Force Working Tirelessly to Make AI & Data More Accessible

Particularly in the age of artificial intelligence, data is one of the most valuable assets. Personal information is being used by large private sector companies to fuel targeted advertising content, but in the military and defense realm, data is decidedly more serious, a variable at play in the global power struggle. New AI systems that are being seriously shopped and explored by U.S. Department of Defense components are fueled by data.

Eileen Vidrine

Eileen Vidrine is currently the chief data and artificial intelligence officer at the Department of the Air Force and was also the department’s very first chief data officer, serving from 2018 to 2021. She has played a vital role in helping orchestrate the Air Force’s data usage tactics, setting an example for the entire Pentagon.

Be sure to tune in to Vidrine’s ample insights about the DOD’s usage of information and intelligence when she delivers the keynote address at GovCon Wire’s 3rd Annual Data Innovation Forum on June 14. This virtual event will be held from 9 a.m. to 11 a.m. and you can register here. If you have any kind of interest in making data actionable for the DOD through AI, don’t want to miss this!

“I like to say we are leveraging the power of data to optimize performance, but really it’s about mission readiness,” Vidrine told the Wall Street Journal when she was still Air Force CDO. “It’s a unified vision because we work together with the three military departments and the five services as well as our allied partners.”

With the leadership of people like Vidrine, the Air Force has over the past few years introduced initiatives such as the USAF-MIT Artificial Intelligence Accelerator, a partnership with the Massachusetts Institute of Technology. This university-hosted innovation hub brings together scientists, researchers, airmen, engineers and students to build performance-ready AI tools that can expedite and potentially transform DOD activities.

The Accelerator operates with a mission of making at least a portion of the gargantuan amounts of Air Force and DOD available to the general public and to the AI community specifically.

The USAF-MIT collaboration is made possible in part via the Visible, Accessible, Understandable, Linked and Trustworthy data platform, or VAULT, which was also a flagship effort by the Air Force. VAULT is a data democratizing application that employs self-service cloud and multitenancy features.

 Lt. Col. Ronnie Synakowski

“The VAULT is used as a catalyst for helping many organizations in the Air Force realize the potential technology and capability that they have…The VAULT is available to them to apply to whatever their current job is,” remarked Lt. Col. Ronnie Synakowski, director of data capabilities at the Air Force Chief Data Office. Synakowski will be participating in a panel discussion following Vidrine’s keynote at the Data Innovation Forum.

Today, VAULT is used by a reported thousands of airmen and guardians. According to Vidrine, carrying out this program effectively, as well as the various AI-based endeavors she oversees, means “get[ting] the data correct and as bias-free as possible.” She said that the DOD as a whole is working together to make this happen and said she believes that as more and more “digital and data natives” come up through the ranks, AI and data are going to become an inextricable and inseparable part of daily operations in the American defense framework.

To hear more brilliant nuggets of wisdom from Air Force CDAO Vidrine and Lt. Col. Synakowski, it is crucial you register for the 3rd Annual Data Innovation Forum from GovCon Wire. You can watch from anywhere on our virtual platform on June 14 from 9 to 11 a.m.

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