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Agencies Highlight Successes in Cloud Modernization

Leaders from DOD, FAA, and Energy say cloud infrastructure is enabling advanced data analytics and software development.

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Federal leaders are seeing promise in cloud modernization for various missions, they said at the AWS Summit in Washington, D.C. this week. Here is a look at some of those highlights.

Defense Department

DOD uses tools and works with partners, including AWS, to adopt data analytics and artificial intelligence, said Alex O’Toole, the director of infrastructure and platforms for the department’s Chief Digital and AI Office (CDAO).

“We’re using hundreds of different tools and capabilities in these environments to ingest, scrub and standardize the data and then federate it up,” he said. “We bring in numerous technologies to either help with analytics or with creating AI to enhance decision-making processes.”

Earlier this year, Defense Deputy Secretary Kathleen Hicks touted the department’s delivering the initial version of CJADC2, a success former CDAO Craig Martell attributed to close integration between developers and warfighters quickly iterating solutions.

Pacific Northwest National Laboratory

The Department of Energy’s Pacific Northwest National Laboratory (PNNL) has a large cloud computing footprint, and officials see cloud as a possible bridge to developing trustworthy AI, according to Courtney Corley, chief scientist for AI in the AI and Data Analytics Division at the lab.

“How do we make sure that when we use AI in operational environments, they’re safe and secure?” he said. “What are all the things that come with it? Many of those solutions involve the cloud.”

Creating a culture that embraces these capabilities is essential for driving innovation, according to Corley, but getting to that point is challenging.

“We have scientists and engineers, and many of them are skeptical of new technology, and rightly so,” he said. “They’re based in the disciplines that they grew up in. The signing post is that because of the rapid pace of change, how do we, collectively as a community, build trust in the tools that we’re using? We have to get rid of some of the challenges with generative AI. Guardrails are going to be helpful.”

Federal Aviation Administration

FAA is nearing the end of a 10-year plan to modernize the National Airspace System (NAS) that includes adoption of more cloud-based enterprise architecture, said Stephanie Taylor, manager in the agency’s Cloud and Hosting Services Division.

“Not having to manage things like environmental things, power, cooling, and not having to do all that low-level management, this is huge,” she said during a press briefing Wednesday at the summit. “It allows you to focus more on innovation.”

Today, FAA has more than 500 workflows across 3,000 servers running in AWS, far more than what remains on premise. Taylor teased that the agency is planning to migrate its two research and development operating environments into the cloud.

Taylor sees a future where FAA can continue to decrease its data centers and capitalize on artificial intelligence to help the agency better serve its customers and leverage its cloud footprint.

“From an administrative support standpoint, one of our low-hanging fruit with AI is that it’d be nice if we could take all of our wiki pages, even some of our code, and put everything we have into a model that would help us provide better assistance,” she said.

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