AI Leaders: Executives Revolutionizing the Artificial Intelligence Realm in 2024

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Artificial Intelligence (AI) has changed the game in the government contracting industry. Thanks to AI leaders, advancements such as automation, deep learning, natural language processing, and data-driven decision-making have given agencies a more human-like approach in their domains. 


Who are the seasoned executives who have committed to transforming the AI field across public and private sectors? Below, we’ve listed the AI leaders who have been seminal in revolutionizing the artificial intelligence realm for the GovCon industry in 2024. 


Note: The following list features esteemed industry leaders selected based on a comprehensive evaluation of their accomplishments, strategic vision, demonstrated impact, innovative contributions, and leadership prowess. However, this is in no way an exhaustive list. The industry is filled with talented professionals making significant contributions.


Jeff Bohling, Chief Executive Officer of Empower AI


Jeff Bohling, Chief Executive Officer of Empower AI
Photo of Jeff Bohling/ LinkedIn


Jeff Bohling is the Chief Executive Officer of Empower AI, an IT services and consulting firm specializing in cybersecurity, DevSeCops, artificial intelligence, and product and software development.


Mr. Bohling applies over 30 years of experience in propelling market growth, delivering proven capabilities to customers, and leading high-performing teams. His appointment as the CEO catapulted Empower AI as a trusted solutions provider for AI and IT transformation for the federal government.


Notable Contributions


On November 15, 2023, Mr. Bohling spearheaded Empower AI’s contract award for optimizing and modernizing the equipment of the Army Transport Edge network. With a contract value of $27 million, the contract encompasses IT modernization efforts for over 60 locations in South Korea.


Jeff Bohling has also advocated the use and impact of ChatGPT for government missions. In a GovConWire interview, the Empower AI executive said that “true applied AI is a journey that requires understanding your data, establishing the governance to protect that data, cleansing the data, and ultimately leveraging that data to train the advanced algorithms.”


Mr. Bohling’s unwavering commitment to bolster Empower AI’s digital solutions in the GovCon space primed him to bag his first Wash100 award. He was one of the AI leaders selected to introduce the opening keynote speaker at the 5th Annual Artificial Intelligence Summit


5th Annual Intelligence Summit banner


Rachael Martin, Maven Office Director at the National Geospatial-Intelligence Agency


Rachael Martin, Maven Office Director at the NGA
Photo of Rachael Martin/ NGA


Rachael Martin took the reins as the Maven Office Director of the National Geospatial-Intelligence Agency (NGA) in January 2023. In this capacity, she leads the agency’s implementation of strategic vision and operations to accelerate the GEOINT community’s harnessing of AI automation. 


In addition, Ms. Martin actively participates in providing crucial GEOINT insights, enhancing enterprise-wide talents and efficiency, and fine-tuning the precision of GEOINT assessments.


Notable Contributions


Rachael Martin’s expertise in artificial intelligence stems from her previous position as the Director of the NGA’s AI, Automation, and Augmentation (AAA) Office.


Ms. Martin’s exemplary work at the AAA Office qualified her as the leader of Project Maven, a program established by the Pentagon in 2017. Project Maven aims to accelerate the integration of AI, big data, and machine learning technologies into various military capabilities. 


“We’ve hit our milestones, and you’ll start seeing as we look to the next few months a lot more activity from the Maven office in contracting,” the Maven Director said in November 2023, highlighting that Project Maven has started contracting in January 2024.


Rachael Martin’s leadership in accelerating AI adoption earned her a spot among the winners of Wash100 2024. She was handpicked to join the roster of notable speakers and AI leaders at the 5th Annual Artificial Intelligence Summit as the morning keynote speaker.


Avril Haines, Director of National Intelligence


Avril Haines, Director of National Intelligence
Photo of Avril Haines/ DNI


Avril Haines is the seventh Senate-appointed Director of the National Intelligence and the first woman to lead the US Intelligence Community. She assumed the position in January 2021, applying years of experience in national security to advance the government’s edge in AI.


Previously, Director Haines was the President and Principal Deputy National Security Advisor from 2015 to 2017, leading the National Security Council’s Deputies Committee. She acquired years of valuable working experience from all three branches of the government, making her a champion of intelligence innovation and a stalwart defender of American interests.


Notable Contributions


Avril Haines is one of the government leaders who participated in the inaugural classified briefing on artificial intelligence in the Senate. The main goal of the meeting was to lay the foundation for investment in AI capabilities, integrate them into national security processes, and learn the AI-enabled patterns and activities of adversaries. 


In February 2024, Avril Haines bagged her fourth Wash100 award for leading the Intelligence Community in combatting disinformation and bolstering its resilience. She has been winning Executive Mosaic’s prestigious accolade since 2021.


Moreover, Ms. Haines’ awards recognize her strong advocacy of aiding Ukraine in its ongoing conflict with Russia and for unveiling the 2023 National Intelligence Strategy. She makes up one-third of the women winners of Wash100 2024.


Dr. Kathleen Hicks, Deputy Defense Secretary


Dr. Kathleen Hicks, Deputy Defense Secretary
Photo of Dr. Kathleen Hicks/ Leadership Connect


Dr. Kathleen Hicks is the 35th Deputy Secretary of Defense, a position she has sworn into office in February 2021. She is the first Senate-confirmed woman to hold this position and is currently the highest-ranking woman serving the US Department of Defense.


In this capacity, Dr. Hicks leads the modernization of the United States nuclear triad, which is a three-pronged military force structure comprising bomber aircraft, land-based missiles (MRBMs or ICBMs), and ballistic missile submarines (SSBNs).


Notable Contributions


For years, the DoD has developed artificial intelligence capabilities and integrated them into its systems to hone defense abilities. Dr. Hicks emphasized that “there’s no debating the ‘why’ of zeroing in on AI — because it can give us better decision advantage, especially given our pacing challenge with competitors like China.”


At the Advantage DOD 2024: Defense Data & AI Symposium in Washington, DC, Dr. Kathleen Hicks shed light on the key factors that halt the DoD’s AI advancements and the solutions to removing these obstacles. 


She said that the first problem is the delayed funding from Congress that keeps AI initiatives from staying on the right path. The second challenge is the outdated Pentagon practices that bar the DoD from maintaining its pace in the innovation race.


That said, Dr. Hicks highlighted that the DoD’s esteemed AI leaders have been employing a “DevSecOps mindset” to take a “comprehensive, iterative, warfighter-centric approach to defense innovation writ large” over the past three years. The Deputy Defense Secretary also said that the DoD is overcoming its historical baggage to remain flexible to technological progress.


Dr. Kathleen Hicks won her fourth consecutive Wash100 award in February 2024 for the adoption of emerging technologies to support national security missions. One of the accomplishments that earned her this recognition was unveiling a new strategy that accelerated the DoD’s integration of analytics, data, and artificial intelligence into its decision-making processes for warfare.


Young Bang, Principal Deputy Assistant Secretary of  the US Army’s Acquisition, Logistics & Technology division


Young Bang, Principal Deputy Assistant Secretary of the US Army's Acquisition, Logistics & Technology division
Photo of Young J. Bang / US Army


Young J. Bang is the Principal Deputy Assistant Secretary of the US Army’s Acquisition, Logistics & Technology (ALT) services. One of his responsibilities is aiding the Assistant Secretary of the Army ALT in the service branch’s contracting and procurement operations.


In his 30-year career, Mr. Bang has actively contributed to missions involving robotics, digital twins, and stealth technologies. Through these advanced capabilities, he said that the US Army can achieve low-signature technology, procure robotics and autonomous systems, enhance stealth capabilities, and strengthen digital contracting centers of excellence.


Moreover, Mr. Bang said that these technological advancements empower the US Army to deal with present and upcoming threats and conflicts.


Notable Contributions


Executive Mosaic granted Young Bang his first Wash100 award for his exemplary work in the Army ALT. Mr. Bang was recognized for his advocacy of integrating automation, artificial intelligence, and digital engineering into cutting-edge technologies of the Army’s 2030 strategy.


Jim Garrettson, Chief Executive Officer of Executive Mosaic, said that “Young has played a vital role in reshaping software acquisition, guiding AI adoption, designing interoperable data architectures, and spearheading acquisition improvements for the U.S. Army.”


Dana Barnes, President of Government Business at Dataminr


Dana Barnes, President of Government Business at Dataminr
Photo of Dana Barnes/ LinkedIn


Dana Barnes is the President of the Government Business Unit at Dataminr, a leading AI business offering high-impact solutions for the most complex predicaments. He leads Dataminr’s government accounts and relevant operations, as well as teams designated to deliver mission-critical capabilities to federal customers.


Notable Contributions


Being a seasoned leader in IT, Dana Barnes elaborated on the Executive Order (EO) on the Responsible Use of AI in a GovConWire interview. He highlighted that the EO is crucial for the government’s AI frameworks and structures. 


For being a steward of AI capabilities, Mr. Barnes won his third Wash100 award in 2024. His triumph recognizes his advocacy for AI-focused efforts and the responsible use of artificial intelligence.


Executive Mosaic CEO Jim Garrettson commented on Dana Barnes’ win, saying that he is “an incredibly knowledgeable resource and a technologically savvy business leader who plays an important role in the GovCon tech ecosystem. His thought leadership and expertise in areas like AI, cybersecurity, and data place him on this year’s Wash100 list yet again.”


Sonny Bhagowalia, Chief Information Officer at the US Customs and Border Protection Office


Sonny Bhagowalia, CIO at the US Customs and Border Protection Office
Photo of Sonny Bhagowalia/ CBP


Sanjeev “Sonny” Bhagowalia is the Chief Information Officer (CIO) and Assistant Commissioner at the US Customs and Border Protection Office (CBP). He took on these roles in February 2021 and has been overseeing over 2,000 federal employees, 4,000 government contractors, and the $2.5 billion IT portfolio backing the CBP’s 24/7 mission.


Mr. Bhagowalia has been a vital part of the CBP since 2018. In his previous stints, he honed his expertise in cybersecurity, governance, information technology, and information resource management to transform businesses.


Notable Contributions


Sonny Bhagowalia received his inaugural Wash100 award for its 2024 edition. He won the accolade for being one of the exemplary AI leaders in promoting the adoption of artificial intelligence to bolster the CBP’s objectives.


In an article by ExecutiveBiz, Mr. Bhagowalia shed light on the CBP’s rolling out of AI to automate processes and enhance efficiency. A part of promoting efficiency is offloading repetitive and time-sensitive tasks from human staff.


In addition, Sonny Bhagowalia talked about the suitability of artificial intelligence for enhancing surveillance and detecting potential contraband made with forced labor.


Steve Escaravage, Executive Vice President at Booz Allen Hamilton


Steve Escaravage, EVP at Booz Allen Hamilton
Photo of Steve Escaravage/ LinkedIn


Steven “Steve” Escaravage is the Executive Vice President at Booz Allen and leader of the firm’s Digital Battlespace Platform. He oversees the company’s defense and military consulting for strategic innovation strategies.


Mr. Escaravage currently has two years of experience as EVP, but he has over 20 years of experience working on artificial intelligence, cognitive automation, edge AI, quantum information science, adversarial machine learning, and research and development.


Notable Contributions


Steve Escaravage’s comprehensive professional experience in AI qualified him among the winners of the Wash100 2024 awards. CEO Jim Garrettson recognized the Booz Allen Hamilton EVP for propelling AI and technological innovation investments; this marks Mr. Escaravage’s third Wash100 accolade.


Jim Garrettson praised Steve Escaravage’s contributions to the AI landscape, saying that “he is a visionary operational technologist forcefully driving and enabling Booz Allen’s pursuit of clear market dominance and the practical adoption and implementation of AI in defense of our nation.”


You might also want to read: Expanded Collaboration Between Oracle & NVIDIA Seen to Provide Customers With Sovereign AI Offerings

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Written by Gayle Barnachea

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