Artificial intelligence is on the rise and those who can harness it will have the ‘high ground’

By Digital Communication Branch
Office of Strategic Communication and Public Affairs
May2, 2023

DISA Director delivers a keynote address during the AFCEA TechNet Cyber conference in Baltimore, May 2, 2023.

(DISA photo by David Marin)

Imagine witnessing someone give a speech and being told a few minutes in that everything they just said was generated and presented by artificial intelligence. Only in Hollywood, right? Not anymore.

Air Force Lt. Gen. Robert J. Skinner, U.S. Defense Information Systems Agency director and Joint Force Headquarters-Department of Defense Information Network commander, used ChatGPT and voice AI software to draft and deliver the opening remarks of his keynote address at the 2023 AFCEA TechNet Cyber conference May 2, in Baltimore, Maryland.

Air Force Lt. Gen. Robert J. Skinner, director of Defense information Systems Agency and JFHQ-DODIN commander, delivers a keynote address during the AFCEA TechNet Cyber conference in Baltimore, May 2, 2023. Skinner began his comments with an AI generated speech and voice to describe how quick AI is changing the tech industry. (DISA photo by David Marin)

(DISA photo by David Marin)

After the big reveal, Skinner stated that generative AI is “probably one of the most disruptive technologies and initiatives in a very long, long time. Those who harness that and can understand how to best leverage it, but also how to best protect against it, are going to be the ones that have the high ground.”

He shared results from a medical study that showed around 80% of AI-generated answers were better than those of a human medical professional and asked how it can impact other professions.

“We in this room, are thinking about how this applies to cybersecurity. How does it apply to intelligence? How does it apply to our warfighting capabilities? And that's where we really need industry’s help. To help us understand faster and better than the adversary how this capability can be leveraged.”

Where we were. 

Skinner provided updates on a few initiatives he introduced during last year’s conference and included information on other areas DISA has been working on..

“A lot has happened in the last year that I was up here and one of the biggest things was our Joint Warfighting Cloud Capability contracts,” he said. “The first task order has already been executed. Thirty-one different proposals are in the shoot right now working its way through to take full advantage and leverage this capability.””.

He touched on the agency’s DevSecOps capability, Vulcan, that enables those who need a DevSecOps environment to use it and take full advantage of everything that it offers.

Skinner also spoke about robotics process automation.

“Fifty bots that we’re using, which is saving hundreds and thousands of hours, and we got to 219 that we’ve identified to continually improve our automation and the things that we are doing.”

A few months ago, the agency successfully completed its Thunderdome pilot and is working through the acquisition strategy to be able to go full production in the next 30-60 days.

DISA Director delivers a keynote address during the AFCEA TechNet Cyber conference in Baltimore, May 2, 2023.

(DISA photo by David Marin)

Where we are going.

The agency is going through a reorganization to functionally align more capabilities and organizations.

“The reason we're doing this is that we’ve got to be more agile and more capable against the strategic threat,” Skinner said. “So, how do we become more agile and more capable to produce more outcomes in a much faster method? We are functionally aligning within the agency.”

Additionally, the agency is moving to a J-code staff organization to align with the Joint Staff and combatant commands and will be adding a J-2 intelligence function for the first time.

Skinner said it’s “to refactor our agency so that we can take full advantage of generative AI, take full advantage of the technologies that are out there and apply those technologies to our mission.”

At the start of the year, the agency announced an initiative called Workforce 2025, a multi-year investment to build the next generation DISA workforce”

“Workforce 2025 is building the foundation of our workforce so that we can refactor,” said Skinner. “Delivering capabilities is still at the heart of what we do.

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