The co-founders of the Senate Artificial Intelligence Caucus, Sens. Martin Heinrich, D-N.M., and Rob Portman, R-Ohio, introduced the Armed Forces Digital Advantage Act on May 16. The new legislation would “modernize the Department of Defense (DoD) workforce by adding a recruitment focus and establishing military career tracks for digital engineering.”

“Much like how the military recruits for and provides incentives to individuals with foreign language skills, senior military leaders and civilian leadership have repeatedly emphasized the need for a workforce with a digital engineering skill set,” said Heinrich. “Whether it is artificial intelligence, 5G telecommunications services, or cloud computing, transformational digital technologies will present new opportunities and challenges for the Department of Defense. That means we must prepare the Department with a proficient and capable workforce by recruiting in the near term and training for the long term.”

The legislation will help ensure the DoD emphasizes digital engineering among its workforce, as well as establish a career track for computer scientists in the military to ensure they receive the training and opportunities needed to advance their careers. The legislation is also intended to help stop the brain drain in the military when computer scientists rotate into unrelated roles.

“The complexity of 21st Century warfare requires that our armed forces be both technically skilled and proficient with their weapons,” said Portman. “This bill will implement the recommendations of our military experts to ensure that our armed forces make computer science and digital engineering skills a priority for recruitment and training. Prioritizing these skills will help ensure our armed forces remain the best in the world.”

According to a release Heinrich’s office, the Armed Forces Digital Advantage Act would:

  • “Assign the Under Secretary of Defense for Personnel and Readiness with the responsibility for the development and implementation of a policy to promote and maintain digital engineering as a core competency of the Armed Forces.
  • Require the Under Secretary of Defense for Personnel and Readiness to establish and appoint, for a position duration of 10 years, a ‘Chief Digital Engineering Recruitment and Management Officer of the Department of Defense.’
  • Require the Assistant Secretaries of the military departments for Manpower and Reserve Affairs, by January 1, 2022, to establish, tailored to the unique needs of each Armed Force, one or more flexible career tracks and identifiers for digital engineering and related digital competencies for each Armed Force, including appropriate military occupational specialties (MOS) and meaningful opportunities for career development, talent management, and promotion within such career tracks.”
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Kate Polit
Kate Polit
Kate Polit is MeriTalk's Assistant Copy & Production Editor covering the intersection of government and technology.