New Perspectives on AI in Government: Beyond Chatbots

The recent surge of interest in generative AI, driven by the release of large language models like ChatGPT, has sparked a wave of excitement and possibilities. However, it is important not to fixate solely on chatbot-style AI capabilities. While these applications have their merits, there are other innovative and practical uses of artificial intelligence that can bring much-needed benefits to the federal government, particularly in terms of increased transparency.

One such example is the Department of State’s pilot project approach to AI adoption. In collaboration between the Bureau of Administration’s Office of Global Information Services (A/GIS), the Office of Management Strategy and Solutions’ Center for Analytics (M/SS CfA), and the Bureau of Information Resource Management’s (IRM) Messaging Systems Office, the department is leveraging AI to automate the laborious process of document declassification. This initiative aims to prepare for the impending influx of electronic records that will require review in the coming years.

Traditionally, the declassification review process has been a manual and time-consuming task. Reviewers have had to meticulously examine each classified cable to determine if it can be declassified for public release, or if it contains sensitive information that should remain classified. With the increasing volume of documents and the limited capacity of human reviewers, this approach has become unsustainable.

To address this challenge, the Department of State turned to artificial intelligence. They conducted a pilot project to test the impact of AI in automating the declassification review process. By training AI models on previous human decisions, the department achieved an impressive accuracy rate of over 97 percent in matching human review decisions. With the potential to reduce over 65 percent of the manual workload, this AI-powered approach demonstrates the transformative potential of technology in government operations.

It is important to note that AI is not replacing human reviewers in this process. Rather, it is augmenting their decision-making by providing insights and recommendations. Human oversight remains crucial to ensure accuracy and to address evolving geopolitical contexts. The incorporation of AI tools into government workflows requires continuous attention to the ethical dimensions of automated decision-making, as well as collaboration between AI systems and human experts.

Beyond its efficiency gains, this project also offers significant cost savings. By optimizing the declassification review process, the department foresees saving nearly $8 million in labor costs over the next ten years. These resources can be redirected to exploring AI solutions for other government programs that grapple with increasing volumes of data and limited resources.

In conclusion, while chatbot-style AI capabilities garner attention, it is vital to recognize the broader applications of artificial intelligence in government. The Department of State’s pilot project serves as a shining example of how AI can enhance efficiency, transparency, and cost-effectiveness in public sector operations. By embracing AI technologies in a thoughtful and responsible manner, government agencies can unlock transformative possibilities and better serve the public.


What is document declassification?

Document declassification refers to the process of reviewing classified documents to determine if they can be released to the public. It involves assessing the content of the documents and deciding whether they contain any sensitive information that should remain classified or if they can be declassified for public access.

Why is the declassification review process time-consuming?

The declassification review process is time-consuming because it typically involves manually examining each document to assess its content and potential impact on national security. Reviewers must carefully review and analyze the documents to make informed decisions about their classification status.

How does AI assist in the declassification review process?

AI assists in the declassification review process by automating certain aspects of the review, such as identifying documents that are more likely to require exemption from automatic declassification. AI models are trained on human decisions made in previous reviews to replicate and assist reviewers’ decision-making processes, thereby reducing the manual workload and increasing efficiency.

What are the benefits of using AI in government operations?

Using AI in government operations brings numerous benefits, including increased efficiency, cost savings, and improved transparency. AI can automate repetitive and time-consuming tasks, allowing government agencies to allocate resources more effectively. Additionally, AI can enhance transparency by providing insights into decision-making processes and facilitating access to information for the public.

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