JAIC focuses on warfighting capabilities

military AI 

The Pentagon's artificial intelligence arm is entering a new phase focused on increasing the technology's use as a warfighting tool.

"We want to help defense leaders see that AI is about generating essential warfighting advantages. AI is not IT," said Marine Corps Lt. Gen. Michael Groen, the director of the Pentagon's Joint Artificial Intelligence Center. "It's not a black box that a contractor's going to deliver to you. It's not some digital gadget that an IT rep will show you how to log into."

Groen, who spoke to reporters during a Nov. 24 briefing, said aiding and improving decision-making across the Defense Department's enterprise was a key JAIC priority.

"Our primary implementation challenge is the hard work of decision engineering," he said. "How do you make warfighting decisions? What data drives your decision-making? Do you have that data? Do you have access to it? If it's driving leaders to think, you know, I could make a better decision if I knew 'x'."

To do that, the JAIC is "creating flyaway teams" to help DOD components understand their data environments and "what kind of things that they're going to have to do to create an environment that can support an artificial intelligence set of solutions," and then finding the solution itself.

Groen said budget limitations likely means the JAIC might just take a look and link components with contractors or contract vehicles to help. But more money could mean building algorithms for defense customers.

"In an unlimited budgetary environment, we might build that algorithm for them. In a limited budget environment, sometimes the best [thing] we can do is look – link them to a contractor who may have a demonstrated expertise in their particular use case," Groen said, adding that ethics and best testing practices will come standard.

"It's a very nuanced program of, how do you spread the resourcing to make sure all of those important functions are accomplished."

The JAIC's new phase focused on increasing AI adoption throughout the department from warfighting and business operations, also comes with broadening DOD's research efforts. The Defense Department awarded $7.5 million to Howard University, a historically black institution based in Washington, D.C., to launch an AI center of excellence.

Danda Rawat, a computer science professor and director of the university's Data Science & Cybersecurity Center, is leading the project, which would help create more reliable AI systems to be used on the battlefield, electronic warfare, counterterrorism, and machine vision.

The partnership, which was announced in October, kicked off in November with Howard University's collaborating with Army Research Laboratory for a number of levels including research, training, publications, mentoring and internships.

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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