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App aims to match reserve, Guard talent with DOD needs

Air Force Tech. Sgt. Nicholas Respondek, a client systems services specialist with the 14th Communications Squadron, performs a cyber threat test on communications circuits at the Niagara Falls Air Reserve Station, N.Y. Photo: Peter Borys, Air Force

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An app called Gig Eagle, powered by artificial intelligence, will be developed to identify talent in the Guard and reserve forces that could be utilized around the Defense Department, an official in the Defense Innovation Unit who is working on the project said.

Scott Sumner, technical project manager at DIU's AI/machine learning portfolio, said that there's a lot of talent in the guard and reserve forces that the DOD could be using but is not aware of.

For example, reservists in their civilian jobs might be working on cloud computing, software engineering, cybersecurity or any number of other in-demand skills. The problem is that the DOD has no way to find them or to know that those skills even exist, he said.

Gig Eagle will be powered by AI, he said, so that the right matches are made. The platform will consider the skill preferences and biographical information, including current skill sets, that the reservist enters into the app. The AI algorithm will key on similar words that indicate or infer a particular talent or skill. A hiring manager from the DOD will then receive a ranked list of possible candidates.

It will also work the other way around, Sumner said. The reservist could locate a hiring manager from the DOD who is looking for his or her particular skill sets.

The idea, Sumner said, is not to pull the person out of their military occupational specialty or away from their civilian job. Instead, it will be to meet short-term needs, which would fill the time the reservist would normally commit to their military job. Which is why the term "gig" is used in the app's title.

The other thing about Gig Eagle is that it's strictly voluntary, Sumner said, noting that it's very likely that a lot of reservists would like to take advantage of the app to see what might particularly interest them and what might contribute to their personal development.

Christopher "CJ" Johnson, the senior individual mobilization augmentee for Cross-Mission Ground and Communications Enterprise, Space and Missile Systems Center, Space Force, said the SMC is particularly interested in Gig Eagle for finding citizen airmen with highly technical skills to augment its digital workforce.

The SMC is the main acquisition organization for the Space Force, he said. "As you can imagine, we have a lot of needs related to engineering, data and cybersecurity and information network disciplines."

Gig Eagle will be a revolutionary way to leverage the talent, Johnson noted. There are tremendous market inefficiencies on finding talent, not just within the DOD but also within the private sector.

Sumner said that earlier this year, DIU spent a couple of months talking about this project with potential vendors and getting feedback from the commercial sector to determine what might be possible. On June 11, the DIU posted an area of interest, which is a solicitation for industry partnering. The post closed June 25.

The DIU will invite potential vendors to give pitches later this summer, he said. The team is looking to test the selected prototypes later this year.

Congress set aside $3 million in the fiscal year 2021 National Defense Authorization Act that will be used to develop the initial prototype, Sumner said.

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