Former Google CEO Eric Schmidt Hits Capitol Hill to Urge Lawmakers to Create a Digital Service Academy

From a story on axios.com by Margaret Harding McGill headlined “Ex-Google CEO promotes digital West Point”:

Former Google CEO Eric Schmidt hit Capitol Hill this week to urge lawmakers to create a digital service academy that would train Americans in artificial intelligence, cybersecurity and cryptocurrency in exchange for government service.

Why it matters: The looming threat of cyberattacks from U.S. adversaries such as Russia underscores the need for tech-savvy employees through the federal workforce.

Driving the news: Schmidt envisions a four-year, digital training academy for civilians who would then work for the federal government for five years.

  • “We’re really convinced that getting AI and crypto talent into the government is crucial,” Schmidt told Axios in an interview. “The systems that are coming are so complicated that the government, who’s well-meaning, will not be able to manage them. You’re going to need better talent.”
  • Initially, the program could be an approved curriculum at universities before becoming a separate academy.

The big picture: The federal government faces a severe shortage of workers skilled in artificial intelligence and cybersecurity, according to a Government Accountability Office report from November.

  • There are more than 38,000 open, public-sector cybersecurity positions according to a job-tracking database.
  • The Biden administration is trying to accelerate efforts to fill cybersecurity positions and speed hiring for technical roles within the government.

The intrigue: Schmidt told Axios he met with members of the For Country Caucus, a bipartisan group of military veterans in Congress, to push them on including the idea as part of the National Defense Authorization Act, an annual must-pass defense spending bill.

Flashback: A digital service academy is a recommendation from the final report of the National Security Commission on Artificial Intelligence, which Schmidt led.

  • The report calls for both a U.S. Digital Service Academy to train current and future employees, and a civilian National Digital Reserve Corps for technically-skilled Americans to work 38 days a year for the government.

Yes, but: It’s unclear if the measure will gain traction with lawmakers.

  • Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand (D-N.Y.) called for a Cyber Academy in an op-ed in December, and secured provisions in last year’s spending bill she said lays the groundwork for such a facility.

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