Army ready to embrace AI

human machine interaction 

Army's acquisition organization is still working out its IT strategy, but it has laser focus on weaving artificial intelligence into the force.

Army acquisition head, Bruce Jette told reporters at the Defense Writers Group breakfast Jan. 10 in Washington, D.C., that while the department isn't where he'd like it to be, the ultimate goal is to more readily embrace off-the-shelf technology and build only what's absolutely necessary.

"If you're talking about operational IT systems, they tend to be more oriented on specific environmental issues [like] how do I get this box I buy to survive," Jette said. For hardware and software, there needs to be "an economic way of leveraging that which is commercially available."

Jette said the Army hasn't gotten as far as he would like, but he said embracing new technologies including wireless and cloud will help speed things along.

The Army is still "sorting through" its cloud migrations, he said, determining whether "it is economical to rent those servers from someone else" and "secure them properly." The Army will use commercially available software, such as cyber tools, as much as possible, he added.

AI, however, will be a big part of the Army's future acquisitions, particularly regarding air missile defense and other weapons systems.

Jette said the Army still has to work with the Office of the Secretary of Defense for resourcing considerations, but Army Futures Command's AI task force is taking up artificial intelligence and robotics requirements and R&D in partnership with Carnegie Mellon University in Pittsburgh. The assistant secretary for the Army for acquisitions, logistics, and technology will establish a managerial approach.

"We're trying to structure an AI architecture that will become enduring and will facilitate our ability to allocate resources and conduct research and implementation of AI capabilities throughout the force," Jette said.

"That's not to say we're not doing AI in various places; there are AI efforts ongoing. It's just that we need to organize for combat a little bit better."

Jette said that despite some worry over weapons systems using AI, the technology is necessary.

"If I can't get AI involved with being able to properly manage weapons systems and firing sequences, then in the long run, I lose the time," he said, adding that requiring an operator in the loop on every sequence can slow down the reaction process, or the number of shots fired. There needs to be policy in place so that weapons aren't firing at will, while freeing up manpower for other tasks.

About the Author

Lauren C. Williams is senior editor for FCW and Defense Systems, covering defense and cybersecurity.

Prior to joining FCW, Williams was the tech reporter for ThinkProgress, where she covered everything from internet culture to national security issues. In past positions, Williams covered health care, politics and crime for various publications, including The Seattle Times.

Williams graduated with a master's in journalism from the University of Maryland, College Park and a bachelor's in dietetics from the University of Delaware. She can be contacted at [email protected], or follow her on Twitter @lalaurenista.

Click here for previous articles by Wiliams.


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