WASHINGTON — The Pentagon’s Joint Artificial Intelligence Center is recruiting businesses to help prepare military data for use with AI.

The solicitation released March 31 is a sign of the AI office’s shifting role from product developer to provider of AI readiness services for Defense Department components. The basic ordering agreement would allow those components and federal partners to issue task orders for the work to get data in shape for artificial intelligence — that could include everything from capturing data to sorting it for storage to modeling how employees will use it with AI to get better insights.

The Data Readiness for Artificial Intelligence Development (DRAID) Services ordering agreement will “help the DoD and Government users prepare data for use in AI applications by providing an easily accessible path to access the cutting-edge commercial services needed to meet the complex technical challenges involved in preparing data for AI,” the solicitation read.

“The services addressed by the DRAID span the entire AI data preparation lifecycle, from data ingestion, through labeling, right up to before model training begins,” an April 1 blog post from the JAIC states. “Through access to these services, the DoD will be positioned to effectively prepare AI data to support the full range of AI activities across the DoD and do so in a responsible manner.”

Task orders under the basic ordering agreement will fall under these areas:

  • Project and program management
  • Data science
  • Data engineering
  • Data architecture
  • Data acquisition and curation
  • Data quality and analysis
  • Synthetic data generation and data anonymization
  • Software development, modification and configuration
  • Enterprise information management and governance
  • Cloud integration and alignment

The JAIC requires that all AI data created through the agreement adheres to published government standards so the data is interoperable with other cloud and AI development platforms across the department.

“DoD AI data services acquired or developed under this PWS [performance work statement] and data processed by those services will frequently be required to integrate and interoperate with new or existing AI cloud platforms. ... In most cases, AI data produced under this BOA will be required to be made available on cloud platforms for reuse in other AI projects,” the PWS says.

The BOA will remain active for five years.

The JAIC blog post about the agreement emphasized that the organization took steps to ensure the RFP could attract nontraditional contractors, such as startups. The solicitation includes an accessibility guide outlining preliminary steps new contractors have to take before responding, while also highlighting revisions the JAIC made to the draft RFP to make it more inclusive for new vendors. For example, the blog says JAIC reformed experience requirements to be more inclusive of startups and other nontraditional contractors.

“In developing the DRAID, we have taken effort to ensure that the best providers — regardless if this is their 1st or 101st time interacting with the Federal government — will be able to participate in the RFP process,” the request stated.

The RFP asks for technologies that support ethical use of AI, including a solutions that would contractors to demonstrate how products integrate the DoD’s AI ethical principles.

“The quality of the AI data determines the quality of the resulting AI system,” the blog post stated. “With the DRAID, the JAIC seeks to leverage the American commercial enterprise to create a strong foundation of AI-ready data for the DoD.”

Andrew Eversden covers all things defense technology for C4ISRNET. He previously reported on federal IT and cybersecurity for Federal Times and Fifth Domain, and worked as a congressional reporting fellow for the Texas Tribune. He was also a Washington intern for the Durango Herald. Andrew is a graduate of American University.

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