Defense Department Launches Artificial Intelligence (AI) Strategy

The Defense Department launched its artificial intelligence (AI) strategy (Media.defense.gov) in February 2019, in concert with a White House announcement that created the American Artificial Intelligence Strategy. (Defense.gov)

The executive order from the president is viewed as important for the US to remain a leader in artificial intelligence, according to Dana Deasy, the Department of Defense’s chief information officer. He said that order will increase the prosperity of the country and boost national security.

Deasy and Air Force Lieutenant Jack Shanahan, the first director of the Department’s Artificial Intelligence Center, talked about the strategy’s launch with DC journalists.

Overview of the National Defense Strategy

The National Defense Strategy (Dod.defense.gov) recognizes that the United States’ global landscape is evolving quickly, with China and Russia making big investments to modernize their armed forces. That investment includes a high level of funding for AI capabilities. The DOD artificial intelligence strategy will directly support all aspects of the National Defense Strategy.

AI is in the process of transforming every industry and will affect every aspect of the Department of Defense, including operations, training, sustainment, recruiting, healthcare, force protection, and more. With AI being applied to defense, the US has the chance to boost support for and protection of America’s service members, safeguard citizens, and defend US allies and partners.

As the AI strategy states, the US, in partnership with its allies need to adopt AI to enhance its strategic position so it can win on future battlefields and maintain a free and open international order.

The Department will incorporate artificial intelligence into operations and decision-making to cut the risk to service members in the field and provide a military advantage. Artificial intelligence can help to maintain equipment better, reduce the cost of operations, and boost readiness. Using artificial intelligence also offers the potential to boost the implementation of other initiatives, such as The Law of War. By enhancing the accuracy of our military assessments and increasing mission precision, AI can cut the risk of civilian casualties in US military operations.

Speed and Agility Are Vital

Boosting speed and agility is a major focus of the AI strategy, the chief information officer told reporters when the strategy was announced. Those factors will be part of all Department of Defense artificial intelligence capabilities across all DOD missions.

Deasy noted that the success of America’s artificial intelligence initiatives relies on strong relationships with our allies and partners. Industry, interagency, allies, and the academic community all play a critical role in executing the nation’s artificial intelligence strategy.

He also noted that it is important to stress the importance that the academic community has in the success of the artificial intelligence initiative. Young, intelligent minds will continue to bring good ideas to the table, and look at the problems with AI from a different perspective. The future success of both the Department and the country depends on using young minds, capturing their imagination and interest so they eventually want to work at DOD on AI-related efforts.

Reform of Department of Defense Business

The last aspect of the National Defense Strategy centers of reform, Deasy told the journalists. The Joint Artificial Intelligence Center (JAIC) will allow many new opportunities to reform the business processes of the Department of Defense. Efficient, smart automation is just one area that could improve effectiveness and efficiency.

AI in the Department will use a foundation based on the enterprise cloud. This will boost efficiencies across the Department of Defense. He also noted that the Department of Defense will stress responsibility and use of AI through guidance and vision principles for using artificial intelligence in a lawful, safe and ethical way.

Joint Artificial Intelligence Center: A Focal Point of Artificial Intelligence

It is difficult to overstate how important it is to operationalize artificial intelligence across the Department of Defense and to do it with a proper sense of urgency. The DOD AI strategy is relevant for the entire Department, and the JAIC is a major part of the initiative. The JAIC was founded as a response to the 2019 National Defense Authorization Act. It has provided a common vision, mission, and focus to drive Department-wide artificial intelligence capability delivery.

Themes of the Artificial Intelligence Mission

The JAIC has several vital missions:

  • The effort to speed the delivery and adoption of artificial intelligence capabilities across the Department of Defense. This underscores how important it is to transition from research and development to operational-fielded capabilities. The JAIC is going to operate across the entire artificial intelligence application lifecycle, with an emphasis on execution in the near term and adoption of AI.
  • Set up a common foundation for scaling the impact of artificial intelligence. One of the most important contributions of the JAIC over the long haul is to establish a foundation that is enabled by enterprise cloud with a focus on shared data repositories for frameworks, useable tools, and cloud services.
  • To synchronize Department artificial intelligence activities, AI and machine learning projects are being undertaken across the department. It is key to ensure full alignment with the NDS.
  • The initiative to attract a world-class, and talented artificial intelligence team.

There currently are two pilot programs that are US mission initiatives, which are broad, cross-cutting artificial intelligence challenges. They comprise humanitarian assistance and preventive maintenance and disaster relief. The initial capabilities in these areas were delivered over the rest of 2019.

While the JAIC is in its early stages, it is starting to work with the US Cyber Command on a national mission initiative related to the space program. Everything that is done in JAIC is going to focus on boosting relationships with academia, industry, allies, and international partners of the United States. Within the Department of Defense, staff will work closely with the armed forces, Joint Staff, combatant commands, agencies, and components.

The mission of JAIC complements the executive order the president signed last February, but there is a lot of work ahead, and this will continue in the next several years.