Sen. Tammy Duckworth, D-Ill., introduced new legislation last week that would invest in building out the Department of Defense’s (DoD) military technological workforce.


The Managing Active and Reserve Tech Talent Effectively Act would help empower DoD to create new military careers across active and reserve components for computer programming, coding, and artificial intelligence (AI) skills to better recruit, retain and manage technological talent among servicemembers.


“To ensure our national security and military readiness is as strong as it can be, we cannot risk overlooking the computer programming, artificial intelligence, and other advanced technological talents of our servicemembers – particularly those members of the Reserve Component who have tech and digital skills from their civilian careers,” said Sen. Duckworth in a statement.


A September 2021 policy brief from the Center for Security and Emerging Technology revealed that the DoD is failing to find and leverage tech talent that already exists in the Armed Forces. Formalizing how the military organizes and takes advantage of service members’ technical skills would help build out the DoD’s “human capital infrastructure” in tech and cyber operations, according to the new legislation.


In addition, cultivating a strong and competitive workforce in computer programming, coding, and AI is key to bolstering military readiness and national security, the senator’s office said.


“This new legislation [would] help the [DoD] better understand, manage, and grow our technological workforce in our military so we can make sure our military remains ready for the next fight,” she said.


Sen. Duckworth’s bill comes after the DoD released its cyber workforce strategy earlier this month, which also aims the department’s cyber workforce retention challenge. As part of that push, the strategy outlined dozens of new work roles related to data, AI, and machine learning.


However, the bill notes that while the new roles are established in the strategy, “there is no requirement for the military departments to review, modify, and expand their occupational fields, military occupational specialties, and skills designators to align with these work roles.”


In addition, the bill notes that “there is no unified mechanism to evaluate the utility of capabilities of members of the Armed Forces in computer programming occupational areas and to identify gaps or surpluses in such capabilities across the military departments.”


The bill would task military departments with establishing a standard for combatant commands who have computer programming skills – any position that supports programming, coding, and AI, including data scientists, engineers, analysts, software developers, machine learning engineers, program managers, and acquisition professionals.


These standards would also apply to the reserve components, the bill states.

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Lisbeth Perez
Lisbeth Perez
Lisbeth Perez is a MeriTalk Senior Technology Reporter covering the intersection of government and technology.