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AI Adoption Transforming Government Contracting

NIH NITAAC Deputy Director credits AI with speeding up program delivery through new technological breakthroughs.

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HONOLULU – Government agencies have quickly adopted artificial intelligence technologies to transform a wide range of programs to include contracting, said Ricky Clark, deputy director, National Institutes of Health Information Technology Acquisition and Assessment Center (NIH NITAAC).

Clark, speaking at a breakout session at AFCEA’s TechNet Indo-Pacific, described how AI is changing government contracting and how those contracting leaders are adapting to the influx of government agencies looking to accelerate AI adoption.

“It’s here to stay,” Clark said when asked if AI is merely a trend. There are those in government who are reluctant to lean into the emerging technology, according to Clark. But this is different than some of the other technology fads he’s seen.

AI technologies have transformed the contracting process itself. Clark said the government is able to review and issue contracts 30% more quickly with the help of AI. This is across government.

Roadblocks and challenges do exist as the government adapts to this new technology. Clark’s team often suggests that government agencies interested in adopting new AI programs reach out to companies already using it to see if they are ready.

Data integrity, for example, poses a major challenge for federal entities. Without clean data, AI systems fail to provide the same level of service.

“Garbage in, garbage out,” Clark said referencing poor data hygiene in some government programs.

The White House published a new AI executive order Oct. 30 to provide additional standards and practices for government agencies to apply the new technologies. It focused especially the use of healthcare practices with AI.

Concerns over safety remain a hindrance to adoption, but it hasn’t slowed down the investment by industry. So much so, Clark doesn’t see how government can ignore it.

He described multiple uses in contracting such as developing AI tools to scan contract data. There are also new, more effective chatbots to answer questions faster. AI applications also provide advanced analysis and can develop smarter business solutions for federal organizations, Clark said during his presentation.

It’s not always the perfect solution, according to Clark. If not adequately prepared, AI can be an overkill or cause additional unforeseen problems. But that can also apply to many other emerging technologies, he said.

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