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Homeland Security Launches AI and Machine Learning Community of Interest

Few technologies are more consequential than artificial intelligence (AI) and machine learning. Exploring the bridge between the two for ways to improve homeland security operations is the focus of a new Department of Homeland Security Science and Technology Directorate (DHS S&T) Community of Interest (COI).

AI can, for example, help responders and law enforcement prioritize large amounts of data from a variety of places to expedite decision making.

“Eventually data becomes so large, no person can understand it or use it effectively,” said Dr. Patrick Carrick, Chief Scientist at DHS S&T. “It takes automated techniques to do that.”

Carrick recently assembled the COI for anyone in DHS with an interest in the subject. DHS operational components are expected to be widely represented in the community given the relevance to the homeland security mission.

Hundreds of personnel attended the kickoff meeting, both online and in person, which spoke volumes about the expected threats and opportunities associated with AI and machine learning.

The event began with Dr. Carrick providing an overview of the “state of the art” in AI/ML, describing its wide-ranging implications for the department, and detailing plans for the future of the community. This was followed by questions and comments from various components, experts and non-experts alike, who recognized they would each play a role in harnessing the power of AI.

The event continued with talks from other members of S&T, featuring a demonstration of an open source AI development platform followed by a discussion of the relationship between AI and the human mind.

“Not all AI/ML is relevant to everyone and what they’re doing,” said Carrick, citing perspectives on AI/ML that may deserve their own conversations, such as finance or transportation safety. “There is so much going on across so many different sectors. We want to make it so those with shared interests can go off and work on things together, then share their findings with the group and across the entire department.”

This discussion serves as a prototype for the future of the COI, with the goal of sharing valuable AI/ML information and insights from around the department. Participants are optimistic about the future of the COI and the DHS study of AI/ML. There was some discussion about eventually sub-dividing into even smaller mission-specific or interest area groups to facilitate the deeper exploration of AI/ML.

Other departments, like the Department of Defense (DoD), have similar communities that Carrick hopes will someday be able to exchange knowledge with the budding DHS COI.  Carrick hopes to start COIs for Quantum Computing and Synthetic Biology as well, both of which are among the federal government’s highest R&D priorities.



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