As the world embraces artificial intelligence, more and more federal agencies are looking at areas in which the technology could make operations more efficient and effective. The Defense Contract Management Agency, which provides contract administration services for the Department of Defense, is one such organization moving toward AI adoption.
During a fireside chat with GovCon Wire on Wednesday, DCMA Director Lt. Gen. David Bassett said that although the agency is not quite “there yet” with AI adoption, he does see potential in the technology.
“I see tremendous opportunity in the application of artificial intelligence and analysis tools on the contracting process, both to speed it up as well as to improve transparency and pricing knowledge for the Department, as we do business across a very broad defense industrial base,” Bassett explained in conversation with Kim Koster, vice president of product marketing at Unanet and a GovCon Expert.
As DCMA moves toward AI implementation, the agency is working to bring its tools and data together into “a set of common environments,” Bassett said. The agency has been working in the Defense Logistics Agency’s Procurement Integrated Enterprise Environment, or PIEE, to be able to share data with the broader enterprise. DoD365, Advana and the Navy’s Product Data Reporting and Evaluation Program, or PDREP, are the other environments through which DCMA is sharing its data and making it available to partners.
“Now that we’ve got the data in one place, the question then becomes, what analysis and insights can be provided through artificial intelligence that’ll make our contract administrators, our pricers, our quality engineers that much more effective in what they do?” Bassett said. “And I think we’re just on the front end of that in terms of our tools, the tools we’re going to build.”
Bassett said DCMA is now exploring Microsoft Power BI environments that will enhance the agency’s data analytics capabilities. From there, the agency will be able to look at how automation and AI fit into the process. Bassett hopes AI will help alleviate the workload for contract administrators, and he has asked the agency’s senior executives to begin exploring AI applications in their domain areas and tools.
“I think we’re still a couple years away,” Bassett acknowledged. “Some of that’s because we’re limited by dollars, but it’s also just I think understanding what those tools can do with contracting data to make us smarter buyers.
There is already some momentum behind using AI in the contracting process. Earlier this year, the DOD’s Chief Digital and Artificial Intelligence Office was looking at developing an AI application that could simplify contract writing and acquisition processes.