Monday, June 17, 2024

‘Not just another jobs board’: DoD’s ‘GigEagle’ initiative to ID short-term Pentagon talent – Breaking Defense

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Networks & Digital Warfare, Pentagon

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Air Force client system technicians update software for computers that are used on Air Force networks at Fort Meade, MD. (Use of this Air Force photo does not imply endorsement.).

WASHINGTON — Inspired by the flexibility of gig work in the private sector, the Pentagon is in the midst of the prototype phase of an initiative, dubbed GigEagle, designed to tap into talent across the Pentagon workforce, in what officials told Breaking Defense could be a “transformational” approach to staffing up short-term defense projects.

“We had these very rapidly evolving mission needs and requirements. We would follow the standard process, maybe looking for resumes, calling people we knew. It just wasn’t working, and so what you started to see was that the mission need would just go unmet,” Air Force Reserve Brig. Gen. Michael McKinley, one of the project leads, told Breaking Defense in a recent interview.

GigEagle, led by the Defense Innovation Unit, is designed to help quickly find talent for important short-term Pentagon projects — up to 90 days — filling a tactical talent gap with which the department has struggled for years, McKinley said.

The project has been in the works since 2018, and development contracts were awarded in 2022 to tech firms Carahsoft and EightFold AI. But it it officially launched its prototype first phase on April 1 of this year. That phase is set to end in September, when phase two and the production phase starts.

As envisioned, the platform can be compared to “a more secure version of LinkedIn,” Maj. Jim Perkins, another product manager of GigEagle, told Breaking Defense.

“We had overwhelming demand from Reservists trying to come into DIU. They were saying, ‘Hey, I have all these other skills, I think I might be able to help you. How can I help?’ And at the time, we didn’t have roles or official billets to put them in,” Air Force Lt. Col. Chuck Kubik, a project lead on GigEagle, told Breaking Defense.

“That’s why this is so transformational and not just another jobs board. This is giving the ability to precisely identify target and engage talent that we just didn’t even know about,” he added.

For now, it’s only open to Reserve members, but phase two is expected to open up the platform DoD-wide and phase three could reach outside the military to academia and industry.

“If we get this right, we have the power, the potential to change the future of public service. That’s what’s so compelling here is that once you identify and engage people, you give people a whole new way to serve their country,” McKinley said.

To access the site, Reservists need to go to gigeagle.com and put in their military access card (CAC) to create a profile, and employers and employees can start the process of filling roles. Unlike LinkedIn, there is no social media or networking aspect to GigEagle — it’s strictly business.

The work managers aren’t looking for typical military jobs; they’re usually more technical and niche, Perkins said.  

“I’m not having a Marine infantry officer go take over command of a Army infantry platoon. Like, that’s not the sort of thing that GigEagle is really all about. But, if you came out of the Marine Corps and you’re still in the Reserves, but your day job is you do supply chain management for Walmart — that’s a skill set that all of the military needs, because supply chain and logistics is just a joint DoD problem,” he said. 

GigEagle uses AI to match servicemembers with the jobs the department is desperately trying to fill. The AI takes the broad profile of a candidate and scores each candidate in different categories depending on what the managers are looking for, Kubik said. 

However, he added that the platform’s AI does not eliminate the human side of the hiring process. 

“I can go and look and see ‘How did that rating get created?’ So I can look at the details behind it. It’s not like I have to blindly trust the AI, I can see how the AI validated that individual,” he said. 

Phase two, which is currently under development and is to be completed during the production portion of the contract, after September, is for active service members looking to fulfil short-term work. 

“We’ve got multiple organizations [within the DoD] who have seen it in play with the Guard Reserves, and [said] ’Hey, I want this for my internal organization across multiple services,’ because they see the power, again, to leverage the required talent wherever they might be billeted, stationed at the time, but they still want to maybe take advantage of a small gig to help them solve their own internal problem,” Kubik said. 

Finally, phase three will include opening up the platform to organizations outside the DoD. McKinley said GigEagle will hopefully be used to find short-term talent from academia and industry.

“How do we engage academia or industry? That will be a big step. And then we’re working through all the different policy considerations that that will entail,” McKinley said. 

Apart from GigEagle, McKinley said that the DIU is working on developing a similar job-matching system for military spouses, called GigEagle SOAR (Spouse Opportunity Access and Recognition).

“The goal here is to do the same with the same type of platform, but to really bring it to a brand new community that we’ve never done before,” he said.

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