The U.S. Department of Defense (DOD) is on the precipice of digital transformation. However, digital transformation requires digital talent. This report summarizes recent DOD digital workforce trends as a follow-up to our 2021 report, The DOD’s Hidden Artificial Intelligence Workforce: Leveraging AI Talent at the U.S. Department of Defense. We expanded our definition of AI talent to include data, analytics, software, and AI, referred to here as the “digital workforce,” to be more aligned with Department needs and current related workforce planning efforts.
Since our initial report, we find evidence of continued divergence in approaches across military services on how digital talent is defined, identified, developed, assigned, and promoted. Conducting 25 interviews across DOD components, we identified five trends regarding the state of DOD’s digital workforce:
- Across the DOD, digital talent career fields and specialized experience identifiers lack common criteria and are inconsistently applied, creating missed opportunities to leverage this much-needed talent.
- Prioritizing the ability to identify digital talent varies within and across organizations, which affects the DOD’s ability to understand force readiness related to data, analytics, and AI capabilities.
- Digital talent teams are increasingly experimenting with ways to bring in and keep those with data analytics talent, but there is no centralized way of sharing lessons-learned and best practices.
- Services are in alignment that there is a need to prioritize and invest in training for universal data/digital “fluency,” however; there is less alignment on defining fluency and on the availability and scale.
- Inconsistent organizational ownership of digital talent makes service-level comparison and coordination an increasingly difficult challenge.
We also find that each service’s approaches are at different levels of maturity. However, regardless of approach, all services share common challenges related to people, processes, and technology.
Still, we see reason for optimism if the DOD incorporates lessons-learned from ongoing efforts to systemically tackle these challenges. We hope the insights provided here help inspire leaders to empower and enable their digital talent to succeed in a data and AI-enabled world.