GenAI in Action with the Air Force

In a contest this year of “Most Popular IT Market Trends” it’s highly likely artificial intelligence (AI) would win first place. Federal agencies have released troves of related guidance in the past year, including an executive order, Office of Management and Budget (OMB) memos, National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST) protocols, and the Department of Defense’ (DoD) AI Strategy. So much of the discussion around AI up until very recently though has been just that: discussion. And while all of the ideas, guidance and direction is helpful across the public sector, we are now starting to see the realization of AI technology in action as well. In addition to the many ways civilian agencies have utilized AI, the DoD, and the Air Force specifically, has launched its own internal generative pre-trained transformer (GPT) tool known as NIPRGPT.

Generative AI tools in the private sphere have become increasingly popular over the last couple of years. Platforms such as DALL-E, ChatGPT, and its latest iteration, GPT-4, are now familiar terms. Unlike the private sector, however, rolling out similar capabilities across federal agencies requires stringent security measures and guidance tailored to specified users.

The Air Force Research Lab (AFRL), in partnership with the AF Chief Information Office (CIO), has done just that, with the landmark Non-classified Internet Protocol Generative Pre-Trained Transformer. Now you see why the shorthand NIPRGPT is utilized.


NIPRGPT is part of the larger all-encompassing modernization effort for the Air Force, as it continues to update its legacy systems and protocols. It is linked to a software platform known as “Dark Saber.” According to the Air Force, “Dark Saber is an ecosystem of Airmen and Guardians from across the Department of the Air Force that brings together innovators and developers and equips them to create next-generation software and operational capabilities deployable to the Force at a rapid pace.”

In effort to increase its competitive advantage, NIPRGPT will offer Airmen, civilian employees, and contractors an AI chatbot that allows users to have human-like conversations to complete various tasks. According to the AFRL, “The CAC-enabled GenAI tool can answer questions and assist with tasks such as correspondence, background papers and code, all within a secure computing environment.”

NIPRGPT was born from roundtable discussions between industry and the Air Force. For IT vendors, this is a great example of direct influence and results by the government based on industry participation and feedback.

Given the newness of the tool, NIRPGPT is still very much in an experimental phase. Metrics including computational efficiency, resource utilization and compliance are all being monitored for effectiveness and modification if necessary. Companies in the AI and security spaces should remain watchful as the technology matures, as this provides an insertion point for products and services to aid in problem-solving any vulnerabilities identified.

Where Else is Gen AI?

And if your customer base includes the intelligence community (IC), we are also seeing generative AI tools developing in that space as well. The CIA recently created Osiris, an open source-based chatbot that aids in writing summaries and refining and answering queries.

The primary concern for any gen AI tool is security. As you can imagine especially in the DoD and IC agencies, it’s a non-negotiable to be sure systems are secure. Therefore, the pace to market may be slower, but it also suggests plenty of space for IT companies with a myriad of capabilities addressing cybersecurity issues, compliance and emerging technology skills all a place at the gen AI table as systems develop and mature especially over the next few years.

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About the Author: Susanna Patten is a senior manager on the TD SYNNEX Public Sector Market Insights team covering tech trends across the Public Sector. Susanna has over 13 years of experience in public sector IT procurement. Her responsibilities at TD SYNNEX Public Sector include driving market intelligence asset production, ensuring the quality and relevance of deliverables from the Market Insights team, and aligning these insights with sales opportunities.