It was recently reported that the United States is not prepared to defend or compete with other countries like China when it comes to artificial intelligence. One area the Intelligence Community and Department of Defense is lacking is recruitment and retention.
Whether it’s competing with silicon valley for candidates who prefer to smoke marijuana legally in there states and not bother with a security clearance that wouldn’t allow for it, or candidates who already had the ability to work remotely full-time for top level cash before the pandemic, recruiting and retention for a generation Z candidate base seems to be a constant struggle for federal agencies.
Polling shows that younger generations are more skeptical of the intelligence community than ones before them, and for many that serve in the IC currently, choosing this industry was never a goal or consideration until later in their career.
MEETING YOUNGER GENERATIONS WHERE THEY’RE AT
Whether that’s policy changes on the executive side to reach younger (and more diverse) candidates will ultimately be up to the president in terms of the security clearance process. But, with DCSA considerably streamlining the process, the companies also need to put in the work to supply the IC / DoD workforce.
Unless you are coming from the military or were lucky enough to get sponsored for a security clearance in the last decade, very few set out to join the IC or DoD agencies while they were in high school or thereafter. This is most likely due to the skepticism we discussed above, but it is also due to access or lack of knowledge. How many times have you seen three letter agencies recruiting at colleges or universities in the DMV area? With a few starting to ramp up their online recruitment campaigns and social media engagement, that will certainly help. But we need to start thinking of post-COVID life as well, when students start to live life back on campus. Especially to meet the national imperative for a talented and diverse national security workforce to defend against emerging threats.
EMERGING THREATS AND A PLAN FORWARD
Congress created a panel to report on what artificial intelligence’s impact is for the U.S. and national security, and it was recommended that we increase AI R&D funding in the next decade for the U.S. to sustain a tactical advantage over adversaries like China. The National Security Commission on AI, or NCSAI, recommended reaching a total of $32 billion in 2026.
A few weeks back, a report also recommended the IC and DoD collaborate closely to reach a streamlined AI proficiency by 2025.
The commission issued its final report to Congress this week and offered a bleak warning that our adversaries could likely soon overtake the US as a leader in AI, a shift that will have significant impacts.
We need to continue the narrative to younger generations and those entering leadership positions in national security that it is a critical industry with great opportunities for their career goals.