Heinrich Questions Top Air Force Leadership About Artificial Intelligence Workforce Needs

WASHINGTON, D.C. April 5, 2019 - Today, in a hearing before the Senate Committee on Armed Services, U.S. Senator Martin Heinrich (D-N.M.) questioned U.S. Secretary of the Air Force Heather Wilson and Chief of Staff of the Air Force General David L. Goldfein about how the Air Force, and the Department of Defense as a whole, is working to address the growing workforce needs as the military implements Artificial Intelligence (AI) initiatives.

Heinrich is focused on helping the military recruit more computer scientists and establishing digital engineering as a core competency within the military services. Adopting transformative AI technologies into the military services' missions will require recruitment of a workforce with digital expertise in software, coding, and data computing.

In the hearing, Heinrich noted, "Artificial Intelligence is going to be critical both on and off the battlefield. As you know, AI is not possible without good quality data, and AI is only effective if we have a workforce that understands how to take care of that data." 

Secretary Wilson said that as a whole "we are probably going to see a significant shortage of data scientists and analysts over the next couple decades and it's a very high priority" to address. 

Heinrich also asked whether there should be someone at the Pentagon assigned with the specific responsibility of recruiting digital engineers and computer coders and whether there should be a Mission Occupational Specialty within the military services.  

VIDEO: U.S. Senator Martin Heinrich asks Air Force Secretary Heather Wilson about how the Air Force is planning to recruit a digitally capable workforce to aid in the transition toward artificial intelligence initiatives, April 4, 2019.

Last month, Heinrich announced the formation of the bipartisan Senate Artificial Intelligence (AI) Caucus with U.S. Senator Rob Portman (R-Ohio). The AI Caucus will help connect members and staff with AI experts in private industry, academia, and the executive branch. The Senate AI Caucus complements the American AI Initiative launched recently by the White House which calls upon all federal agencies to prioritize research and development of AI and to build a workforce that is prepared to take on the enormous changes that will come as a result of AI.