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The Air Force is launching a new pilot program to help it identify and use airmen's digital fluency more efficiently. Public domain photo via Flickr.

The Air Force is beginning a pilot program aimed at identifying airmen’s fluency in computer languages and coding, and treating that skill in the same way it treats fluency in a spoken language.

The point, said Capt. Mike Kanaan, the enterprise lead for artificial intelligence and machine learning for Air Force intelligence, is to allow the Air Force to identify and use airmen’s digital fluency more efficiently.

The first step in the effort, which is being conducted through the Language Enabled Airman Program run by the Air Force Culture and Language Center, is to identify the airmen who will participate in the pilot, and then find "compelling mission sets” that can use these abilities. Such applications could include manipulating human resources databases or area of responsibility target management.

Kanaan said the pilot program will start in about 90 days. Then in about six to eight months, he said, the Air Force will take the information learned through the pilot and consider establishing new billets using these skills.

The aim, he said, is to know where the airmen with these skills are located throughout the force and to value them instead of just wondering how many airmen code.

“We have to fix the answer to that question, and its through this paradigm shift of understanding that in the 21st Century, computer languages unto themselves should be commensurately treated like human languages,” he said.