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NEWS | May 12, 2022

AI-powered app aims to discover talent in Guard, Reserve

By David Vergun DOD News

Members of the Reserve and National Guard are highly skilled across a variety of private-sector industries and have the potential to make substantial contributions to Defense Department missions, a DOD official said. 

The problem is, the department is not always aware of that talent, said Scott Sumner, technical project manager at Defense Innovation Unit's artificial intelligence/machine learning portfolio. 

As he squats on the floor, a service member looks at an electronic device that's connected to a computer network.
Threat Test
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., Feb. 8, 2020.
Photo By: Peter Borys, Air Force
VIRIN: 200208-F-YZ899-0019A

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 department has no way to find them or to know that those skills even exist, he said.  

That could soon change, Sumner said. 

An app called Gig Eagle, powered by AI, is being developed to identify that talent. 

The Gig Eagle prototype focuses on staffing short-term "gig" project needs, ranging from four hours to several months in duration, many of which can be staffed remotely, he said. 

Gig Eagle is powered by AI, he said, so the right matches are made. The platform considers 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 imply 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 skill sets. 

Service member monitors cyber threat.
Cyber Threat
Tech. Sgt. Daniel Smith, a mission defense team specialist with the 914th Communications Squadron, monitors cyber threats at the Niagara Falls Air Reserve Station, N.Y., Feb. 8, 2020.
Photo By: Peter Borys
VIRIN: 200208-F-YZ899-0008

The idea, Sumner said, is not to pull persons 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. Therefore, the term "gig" is used in the app's title. 

Another feature of the Gig Eagle program 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 be of particular interest to them and what might contribute to their personal development. 

In the coming months, there will be more information about Gig Eagle and how DOD personnel can access it.  

By this summer, initial user cohorts consisting of select members of the six service branches will conduct platform testing, Sumner said. While this is currently by invitation only, parties who would like to participate can express their interest by filling out the Gig Eagle Interest Form. Reservists and National Guard members can sign up now if interested in participating in prototype platform testing. 

Gigs may be performed on-site, remotely or some combination of both, as specified by the gig manager, he said. 

Two people look at wall-mounted computer screens.
Cyber Screens
Marines with Marine Corps Forces Cyberspace Command observe computer screens in the cyber operations center at Fort Meade, Md., Feb. 5, 2020.
Photo By: Marine Corps Staff Sgt. Jacob Osborne
VIRIN: 200205-M-VG714-0024A

Initial DOD areas of interest include AI, information technology, human systems, autonomy and space, he said. 

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 in finding talent, not just within the DOD but also within the private sector. 

Congress set aside $3 million in the National Defense Authorization Act that was used to develop the prototype, Sumner mentioned.