The Health and Human Services Department’s Program Support Center on Jan. 10 released a request for proposals for an artificial intelligence multiple-award contract. It’s another piece of evidence that the agency has prioritized AI and is likely to spend more on the emerging technology in the next few years.
None of HHS’s information technology strategies mention artificial intelligence. Yet the way the agency is spending money and planning to obligate future funds tells another story.
HHS plans to use automation, machine learning, supervised learning, and machine vision to reduce backlogs, predict fraudulent transactions, identify suspects through facial recognition, and more.
The new AI vehicle, which is expected to begin obligating funds around March 4, will be called Intelligent Automation/Artificial Intelligence, or IAAI. It will be an indefinite delivery/indefinite quantity vehicle with a five-year period of performance. Agencies other than HHS will be able to use IAAI to order intelligent automation and AI products and services.
The competition will be full and open, with RFP responses due on Jan. 30, but the number of awards is unknown. IAAI’s ceiling is $49 million.
With multiple contractors on IAAS, that $49 billion ceiling isn’t particularly large over five years. Yet in an emerging industry, an average of $10 million annually is significant. It’s especially notable if most of its business comes from HHS, which spent just $65 million on AI-related products and services in fiscal 2018, up almost 80 percent from $36 million in fiscal 2017.
It’s unclear whether IAAI will bring new AI funding to HHS or redirect existing funds through the new vehicle. If it adds funding, the money will contribute to the large annual increases in HHS AI spending, which have averaged 67 percent since fiscal 2014.
If existing funding is being redirected through IAAI, the vehicle would make it easier for HHS to purchase AI products and services, expanding research and development on the use of AI and automation throughout the agency.
Beyond fiscal 2019, it’s possible that the work performed under IAAI will lead to larger, more lucrative projects. “This contract is the next logical step to integrating IAAI technologies into all phases of government operations; providing Federal agencies opportunities to share critical insights and information regarding technologies and suppliers,” according to the request for proposals. If AI can improve the way the government operates, the market is likely to continue growing at similar rates for the foreseeable future.
Some of the areas that may see increased obligations in fiscal 2019 and beyond are what the IAAI solicitation calls “functional areas,” which include:
- Applied ideation and design support.
- Engineering and process engineering support.
- Systems design documentation and technical data support.
- Engineering, prototyping and model-making support.
- Interoperability, test and evaluation support.
- Quality assurance support.
- Technical training support.
- Professional development and training support.
- Program support.
- Logistics, operations and maintenance support.
In addition to the IAAI MAC, HHS has about 60 open solicitations that mention artificial intelligence, machine learning, deep learning, data mining, or natural language processing, further evidence of HHS’s commitment to expanding its capabilities in this emerging technology.
Most of the solicitations represent actionable bids for contractors because the solicitations are between the request for information and request for proposal stages. Nine opportunities have response dates in the future, including IAAI.
Meanwhile related business development opportunities are also flowing from agencies such as the Food and Drug Administration, which is hosting an Innovate Today Summitin July. FDA wants contractors at the summit to showcase the advances that AI, machine learning, and other advanced research are making in clinical trials and medical devices. Those who wish to demonstrate their technology have until Jan. 18 to respond.
Contractors performing AI requirements should also continue monitoring HHS’s Accelerate pilot program. HHS hosted an industry day and demo in December with the goal of using blockchain, machine learning, and AI to improve IT security, increase savings, and improve process challenges.
To contact the analyst: Laura Criste in Washington, D.C. at firstname.lastname@example.org