Liz Martin, director of the Department of Defense Business at Amazon Web Services, recently spoke with ExecutiveBiz about the impact that artificial intelligence capabilities are having on the U.S. military as well as the influence of emerging technologies and the importance of giving back and making a difference in the military community during the latest Executive Spotlight interview.
You can read the full interview with Liz Martin below.
ExecutiveBiz: An important part of a company having strong business ethics in the federal sector is about helping and giving back to the greater community. Can you speak to the work that AWS does to make a difference with the military community?
Liz Martin: “At Amazon, we are always looking for ways to scale our impact as we grow. We look to leverage our scale for good and use our ability to innovate quickly to strengthen communities around the world where our employees live and work.
One area that I’m most proud of is Amazon’s commitment to helping address high rates of veteran unemployment by committing to hiring our military veterans and their spouses. We feel strongly that they represent some of the most talented workers in the world.
We’ve found that many of the qualities that are foundational to military service align well with our Amazon culture and Leadership Principles. In fact, in 2021, Amazon pledged to hire over 100,000 US veterans and military spouses by 2024, building on its commitment to military families after far exceeding its pledge to hire 25,000 by 2021.
Today, Amazon currently employs more than 45,000 veterans and military spouses across multiple businesses, including operations, sustainability, Alexa, and AWS.
AWS, along with other divisions of Amazon, have created a number of programs focused on providing employment resources, educational access, and wellness programs aimed at helping veterans transition to successful lives after their years of service.
We have partnered with a number of government and veterans’ organizations to support these efforts. To help find even more talent among our veterans, we launched the Amazon Technical Apprenticeship Program.
This provides classroom training, followed by 12 months of on-the-job training, before apprentices move to full time jobs with our company. In February 2022, AWS announced that it made its 1,000th hire through the Apprenticeship program. Since the program started as a pilot in 2017, it has had a 90% completion rate for all apprentices in instructor-led training.
Last year, AWS launched a new technical training program as a part of the Amazon Technical Apprenticeship program and Amazon Military Skillbridge. Officially titled CloudBridge, this new program is powered by AWS Training and Certification and was first launched at Joint Base Lewis-McChord in Washington.
What started as a virtual program has evolved into a 16-week hybrid training program for AWS and Amazon tech roles and apprenticeships. Building off the initial success with Joint Base Lewis-McChord, we launched a second training program on Joint Base Myers Henderson-Hall in Virginia in June 2022.
In addition, the Amazon BRIDGE program, which stands for “Broadening Research and Innovation for Defense and Government Employees,” is focused on sharing Amazon’s industry best practices and business processes with the military, national security, and federal government communities to enable them to modernize and keep the US safe.
For anywhere from one week to one year, service members and government employees get the opportunity to work at Amazon on a team. They learn best practices from us, then return to their military or government career with skills and resources to bring about organizational transformation and innovation.
For interested veterans, military spouses, and transitioning service members, I encourage you to learn more about Amazon’s military fellowship and apprenticeship programs and find information about current openings.”
ExecutiveBiz: With artificial intelligence and machine learning poised to impact federal agencies and the U.S. military dramatically, how are you seeing the technologies’ capabilities improve decision-making and enable the DOD to support the mission?
Liz Martin: “From computer vision systems for autonomous driving to FDA-approved medical imaging, artificial intelligence is certainly driving public sector innovation. We’ve been hearing people say that this is the golden age of machine learning.
The algorithms have been in existence for a while, but here’s what’s changed: machine learning is now becoming more accessible because industry has access to very large data sets as well as lots of computational capabilities that weren’t available previously.
This is why federal and defense organizations are adding AI into their platform, solutions, and products to perform tasks that usually require human-level intelligence, such as visual perception, speech recognition, decision making, or translation.
The cloud enables customers of all shapes and sizes – including the Service branches and defense agencies – to scale up and down quickly and seamlessly and to take advantage of newer and innovative technologies like machine learning and AI.
AWS has the broadest and most complete set of ML capabilities for all skill levels. A few years ago, we launched Amazon SageMaker, the most complete end-to-end solution for ML with all the tools needed to build, train, and deploy ML models in one easy-to-use interface called SageMaker Studio.
Over 100,000 customers are running machine learning on AWS, spurred by the broad adoption of Amazon SageMaker.
The DOD’s Joint All Domain Command and Control vision is a great example of how the DOD plans to leverage the cloud, edge computing, and machine learning and AI to enable faster decision making.
AWS was proud to be invited to Germany last year to participate in the On-Ramp 4 exercise, organized by the Air Force Chief Architect Integration Office. The goal of the On-Ramp 4 forum was to test and evaluate new systems and edge computing capabilities for the Air Force’s Advanced Battle Management System – which is the Air Force’s contribution to the JADC2 vision.
Building off of prior on-ramps, On-Ramp 4 sought to test the ability to integrate capabilities from vendors, U.S. military organizations, and partner nations that work together to deploy a tactical edge network solution that leverages a highly resilient network of connections and communications systems.
The participants demonstrated capabilities such as DevSecOps, the deployment of AI and machine learning applications and Kubernetes clusters at the edge, and the ability to move deployed code from unclassified to classified networks.
Through on-ramps, the Air Force is able to demonstrate capabilities that could help lay the foundation of an IoMT and enable data sharing across the DOD under an established, digital architecture.”
ExecutiveBiz: With federal agencies working to implement the latest trends in technology such as AI, 5G, cloud and many others, what are your thoughts on the opportunities and challenges that government agencies are dealing with to remain innovative while supporting national security?
Liz Martin: “National security depends on our nation’s ability to stay a step ahead of adversaries. Governments, and the citizens they serve, should have the same great infrastructure and services that are driving innovation in the private sector.
As the US government continues to modernize the way they conduct business and serve the warfighter, AWS is committed to be a part of that mission by providing the most innovative, efficient and effective solutions.
A key opportunity for federal innovation lies in agencies’ digital transformation and IT modernization efforts. The cloud enables organizations to achieve missions faster, speed up innovation, and save costs by scaling up quickly without the lengthy and costly process of acquiring hardware.
Cloud computing helps the DOD and national security community process and disseminate information for military operations through enhanced agility, cost savings, improved elasticity, increased innovation, tactical support at the edge, and enhanced security.”
ExecutiveBiz: As the federal sector continues to face increasing cybersecurity threats and cyber hygiene becomes a necessity for all organizations – particularly at the national security level – how is AWS helping address these concerns?
Liz Martin: “At AWS, security is our top priority. AWS has been architected to be the most flexible and secure cloud computing environment available today. Our core infrastructure is built to satisfy the security requirements for military, global banks, and other high-sensitivity organizations.
AWS uses the same secure hardware and software to build and operate each of our regions. Our service offerings and associated supply chain are vetted and accepted as secure enough for top-secret workloads, which benefits all our customers globally.
This is backed by a deep set of cloud security tools, with more than 280 security, compliance, and governance services and key features. And all 117 AWS services that store customer data offer the ability to encrypt that data.
We have a shared responsibility model with the customer; AWS manages and controls the components from the host operating system and virtualization layer down to the physical security of the facilities in which the services operate, and AWS customers are responsible for building secure applications.
We provide a wide variety of best practices documents, encryption tools, and other guidance our customers can leverage in delivering application-level security measures. In addition, AWS partners offer hundreds of tools and features to help customers meet their security objectives, ranging from network security, configuration management, access control, and data encryption.”