DOD’s GigEagle Uses AI to Solve Tech Talent Challenges

Earlier this year, GigEagle Agile Talent Ecosystem Initiative Director Brig. Gen. Michael McGinley got a call from a joint program leader who was looking for a software developer to fill a temporary position. Using GigEagle, the Defense Department’s first AI-driven joint talent marketplace designed to match reservists, and others with short-term DOD assignments, McGinley was able to identify 197 candidates within seconds, a task that used to take weeks or months. In the era of the great power competition, “we don’t have that kind of time,” McGinley said.

McGinley, mobilization assistant to the Air Force Research Laboratory’s commander, launched the GigEagle initiative in 2018 when he was director of Defense Innovation Unit’s (DIU) Boston operations. The initiative is the product of a partnership between Eightfold AI, Carahsoft Technology and DIU. Currently in the prototype stage, there are about 600 users on the platform and McGinley said it has proven to be successful.

“There are more than half a million reservists who are highly skilled across a variety of private sector industries and have the drive to assist in our national security effort,” McGinley told GovCIO Media & Research. “That talent was nearly impossible to identify and often went untapped.”

“We had personnel records. We could find where you went to school or your Air Force specialty code, but it was hard to get beyond that,” he added.

McGinley developed the idea for GigEagle during his time in Boston. 

“I was struggling with the demand signal I was getting from all the different organizations across the Defense Department that were supported by the DIU,” he said. “The talent was there, but I couldn’t match it fast enough.”

Frustrated, he left the office and summoned an Uber home, when he realized something.

“Uber, a commercial company, had solved this,” he said. “They had the algorithm to match the demand signal with the supply of talent.”

GigEagle is a cloud-based, real-time talent reservist marketplace that connects demand and supply sides through AI-driven matching and mobile authentication. The platform allows users to access talent from other organizations and expand their skill sets. Reservists upload their resumes in their profile, giving them a proactive approach to finding positions.

“That maintenance technician might also be a Python coder,” McGinley said. “You get a much more comprehensive understanding of what skills people bring.”

Leaders input their skill requirements and get a list of top candidates almost instantly.

“We’ve never had that capability before,” McGinley said.

Now, he added, commanders can create ad hoc teams for emerging missions. Commanders can now can find experts in drones, coding, piloting and people from military research labs.

“The whole concept of a skills marketplace is new to the Department of Defense,” said 75th Innovation Command Chief Talent Officer Major Craig Robbins. “It’s relatively new to the workforce at large. This idea that you can fulfill numerous roles within an organization with employees that are supporting another team, an idea that we are, as an Army, working toward. GigEagle aligns with the Army People Strategy by enabling the army to shift from simply distributing personnel to a more deliberate process of managing the talents of our soldiers and civilians, especially those who are serving in the reserve and the National Guard.”

GigEagle fits within the recent emphasis on skills-based hiring throughout government.

“We’re stronger when we have people who bring their knowledge and expertise to bear from all sectors — industry, academia, non-profits, other parts of government and elsewhere,” Deputy Secretary of Defense Kathleen Hicks said of the department’s workforce in January 2023.

An open skills marketplace with precision matchmaking capabilities enables the Army and DOD to respond more quickly to domestic and international crises, Robbins said.

“Additionally, we are focusing on being relevant in the modern workforce, which is probably going through its most rapid pace of change in the past decade,” he said.