JAIC feels pressure to go faster as tight budgets loom

AI data model (nobeastsofierce/ 

The Defense Department’s Joint Artificial Intelligence Center feels the pressure to move faster as tight defense budgets loom in future years.

Lt. Gen. Michael Groen, the JAIC’s director, said budget constraints in current and potentially future fiscal years will only increase the department’s need for enterprise-level artificial intelligence capabilities.

“In an era of tightening budgets and a focus on squeezing out things that are legacy or not important in the budget, the productivity gains and the efficiency gains that AI can bring to the department, especially through the business process transformation, actually becomes an economic necessity,” Groen told reporters April 9.

“In a squeeze play between modernizing our warfare that moves at machine speed and tighter budgets, AI is doubly necessary,” he said.

Robert Work, former deputy secretary of defense and now vice chair for the National Security Commission on Artificial Intelligence, said DOD needs to increase science and technology and research and development spending on AI to be at least 3.4% of its total budget.

“We think it should be a minimum of 3.4 percent of the budget and we recommend that the department spend about $8 billion on AI R&D annually,” Work told reporters, stressing the existence of specialized acquisition paths and contracting authorities that can be used. “That will allow us, we think, to cover … all of the key research areas.”

“We have to have an updated approach to the budget and oversight process for these ensure you have the resources and the processes and the organizations,” Work said

The JAIC, which was shifted from the office of the CIO to sit under the deputy defense secretary, has been working to accelerate its efforts and increase AI’s use across the Defense Department in an effort called JAIC 2.0.

But Groen said even with those efforts, which are about six months along, the organization needs to move faster.

Right now, the JAIC is evaluating each of the services’ multiple development environments and how best to “stitch” them together to share a containerized process, authorities to operate, algorithms, and development tools and environments.

The Defense Department is also working on a slew of recommendations from the NSCAI’s, which recently released its final report.

Groen said DOD was already implementing efforts that address nearly half of the commission’s 100 defense and military-related recommendations and is looking at them “in detail” to make sure “what we're doing today aligns.”

He also said, without elaborating, that the JAIC doesn’t have a plan for some of the recommendations, while others that weren’t previously considered will require more study. 

“There are things that we hadn't thought about before and we really need to kind of pull the strings on the implications of those. So there's that third subset.”

Groen said he couldn't think of any recommendations that he didn’t agree with but that he was concerned the JAIC wasn’t moving fast enough:. “Is JAIC 2.0 enough, right? Are we moving fast enough to create enterprises of capability and overcome stovepiped developments? Are we moving fast enough to really change our operating model to data-driven and data visibility across the department? Are we moving fast enough in integrating innovative technology into the department?”

Sometimes, he said, “I lay awake at night and the answer's no.”

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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