The Data Chief | Episode 93

Commander’s Business: How the U.S. Coast Guard Serves with Data and AI

Captain Brian Erickson

Chief Data and Artificial Intelligence Officer

U.S. Coast Guard

Current EpisodeEP93: Commander’s Business: How the U.S. Coast Guard Serves with Data and AI

Episode Overview

Join Captain Brian Erickson, the Chief Data and AI Officer of the U.S. Coast Guard (USCG) and host, Cindi Howson, to hear how the USCG leverages data and AI to enhance operations and keep the U.S. safe. With Brian’s unique background, dive into his thoughts on balancing experience-based decision making with data-informed decision making, how best to evaluate data from multiple agencies, and explore his thoughts on AI regulation, and whether we should all be AI ethicists.

Key Moments:

  • The voyage to a data-driven US Coast Guard (5:21)
  • Navigating data-driven approaches to US Coast Guard operations (20:28)
  • Balancing experience-based decision making with data-informed decision making (25:34)
  • In whose data do you trust? (30:10)
  • Measuring the value of data (33:80)
  • Should an AI ethicist be part of the team or should everyone really be an ethicist? (45:00)

Key Quotes: 

Up until three years ago when we started this, some people – and really our entire organization – just thought data as IT. They didn't think much past that, because no one had ever really challenged them to think about it. So it wasn't really thought of as, ‘this is the data that we have, and this is the commander's business. This is how the business is going to run. It's not just letting IT figure it out.’

I think that technology has helped us along the way to visualize data that otherwise would be difficult and time consuming to conceptualize and understand. And as we continue to find ways to make humans understand better what it is that they're looking at – especially in extremely dynamic and complex data situations – I think you'll start to see a shift of trust and that's really experience. It's experience in using data informed decision making activities.

Would an ethics, an AI ethics advisor to the CDAO be a great thing? Absolutely. Are we all just ethicists? Yes, but I would say that there is a lot of understanding needed. There's a huge area where you could be an expert in the ethics of artificial intelligence and provide sound guidance day after day. I would think that this particular type of employee would be extremely valuable.




Captain Brian Erickson currently serves as the United States Coast Guard’s first Chief Data and Artificial Intelligence Officer and is principally responsible for the coordination of data and artificial intelligence activities across the organization. His previous assignments focused primarily on engineering and operations, serving at five operational assignments piloting rotary and fixed wing aircraft performing search and rescue, law enforcement and other military mission profiles. Brian is a licensed Professional Engineer specializing in aerospace and also served in the Office of Budget and Programs working directly for the Chief Financial Officer (CFO). In 2020, he was selected as the Coast Guard’s MIT Sloan Fellow following service as Commanding Officer of Coast Guard Air Station Savannah, GA. Brian is a 1998 graduate of the U.S. Coast Guard Academy, and holds a Master of Science degree in Aeronautics and Astronautics from Purdue University as well as a Master of Business Administration from Massachusetts Institute of Technology. He is a 2022 DataIQ Top 100 most influential persons in data and the 2023 MachineCon AI Leader of the Year.