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Friday, February 23, 2024

How Artificial Intelligence Can Reshape Homeland Security in 2024

The Department of Homeland Security is on a mission to make sure customer experience (CX) permeates through everything the agency does, and artificial intelligence (AI) can help.

As DHS acting secretary Dana Chinell said, “We’re really here to inject customer experience design, human-centered design, product management, digital services and skills into everything across the department from service delivery to acquisitions and procurement.”

One path to success, as DHS IT leaders have outlined in their FY 2024-2028 IT Strategic Plan, is the use of AI to bolster CX efforts and meet IT modernization goals. 

AI is a valuable tool for DHS due to the incredible volume of data and information collected, stored, and shared on a daily basis. DHS can use AI to extract actionable insights from these troves of information. In turn, the DHS workforce is better equipped to make informed decisions quickly, so issues are resolved promptly. 

The benefits of using AI have already been realized by DHS for specific issues, such as border protection and immigration.

U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS), for example, has started to use AI to deliver service more efficiently through machine learning models that eliminate redundant paperwork by pulling together information from disparate systems. 

Another critical use case of AI is its use for research and development, as the Science and Technology Directorate (S&T) has implemented to help the people on the front lines of our homeland security mission, like first responders. S&T’s AI use has fueled efforts including data analysis, imaging, visualization, and predictive analytics to provide more insight into ongoing DHS efforts. 

These data-driven insights can also illuminate solutions to key CX challenges, which any agency will encounter as they update and improve their processes. When working to optimize available data, there are three crucial considerations for agency leaders to keep in mind: 

  • How to compare the data and metrics to the desired outcome
  • How to ensure that the use of data is compliant and secure
  • How to maximize interoperability  

DHS will achieve success when it comes to CX goals if it takes a human-centered design (HCD) approach, which places emphasis on feedback and real-time adjustments. When feedback is continually captured and used to inform design, agencies can build and deliver trustworthy, accessible services for all Americans that help them feel heard and understood.

In December, the agency published an update on its Artificial Intelligence Task Force (AITF) which was created earlier in the year to guide the use of AI.

“The Task Force collaborated with DHS Components and offices to initiate several pilot projects, including projects based on internet-accessible, commercially available Generative Al/Large Language Models (LLMs) to advance mission capabilities using AI,” read the memo. “These pilots will support the Department’s understanding of the capabilities, limitations, and risks associated with AI while testing potential solutions. The pilots will also provide real-world data and information on how DHS can scale these technologies across the Department.”

It’s an important step for the agency, as the proper infrastructure must be in place for AI to be truly effective in reshaping how an agency operates. One example, as stated in the update memo, is the work being done by Customs and Border Patrol (CBP), which began establishing infrastructure requirements for developing, deploying, and managing machine learning models. Specifically, agency leaders have been developing operational pipelines and best practices for deploying and operating machine learning and AI models.

The transformation for DHS will not take place overnight. The IT strategic plan is a five-year strategic plan for a reason. 

But the agency, working in concert with industry’s top technology companies, has the ability to make significant strides very quickly. 

That impact will have far-ranging, and incredibly positive, implications for the American people.

MaryAnn Monroe & John Mandell
MaryAnn Monroe & John Mandell
MaryAnn Monroe is responsible for developing and integrating Maximus Federal's customer experience strategy into its culture and business strategy. She focuses on understanding and aligning customers’ needs and expectations with the Maximus Federal strategic business objectives to enhance government services and elevate customer experiences to achieve the highest levels of satisfaction, performance, and outcomes. Before joining Maximus, MaryAnn served as director of customer experience, chief of staff, and director of USAGov Contact Center for Technology Transformation Service (within General Services Administration), director of the Cancer Information Service for the National Cancer Institute and National Institutes of Health, director of customer success (public sector) for eGain Corporation, and director of customer experience for HighPoint Global. John Mandell is a technology consulting executive who specializes in transformation engagements across the Homeland Security marketplace, John brings more than a decade of experience in the National Security and DHS sector having sold and delivered engagements to the United States Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS), Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE), Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA), Transportation Security Administration (TSA), Customs and Border Patrol (CBP), and others. He has successfully led complex business development pursuits with contract vehicles up to a $1B and introduced new and emerging technologies to support his clients’ missions. John brings expertise in Digital Transformation, including DevSecOps practices, Cloud, and Advanced Analytics, as well as process improvement and IT services. Prior to joining, Mandell served as Director, Public Sector for Guidehouse (formerly PricewaterhouseCoopers). Earlier in his career, he was a member of the Grant Thornton Global Public Sector team and the BearingPoint Oracle practice.

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