The Defense Department launched its artificial intelligence strategy Feb. 12, 2019, in concert with Feb. 11, 2019's White House executive order that created the American Artificial Intelligence Strategy.
"The [executive order] is paramount for our country to remain a leader in AI, and it will not only increase the prosperity of our nation, but also enhance our national security," Dana Deasy, DOD's chief information officer, said in a media roundtable.
The CIO and Air Force Lt. Gen. Jack Shanahan, first director of DOD's Joint Artificial Intelligence Center, discussed the strategy's launch with reporters.
The National Defense Strategy recognizes that the U.S. global landscape has evolved rapidly, with Russia and China making significant investments to modernize their forces, Deasy said. "That includes substantial funding for AI capabilities," he added. "The DOD AI strategy directly supports every aspect of the NDS."
Defense Department Chief Information Officer Dana Deasy and Air Force Lt. Gen. John N.T. Shanahan, the director of the Joint Artificial Intelligence Center, hold a roundtable meeting on DOD's artificial intelligence strategy at the Pentagon, Feb. 12, 2019.
(DOD photo by Army Sgt. Amber I. Smith)
As stated in the AI strategy, he said, the United States — together with its allied partners — must adopt AI to maintain its strategic position to prevail on future battlefields and safeguard a free and open international order.
Speed and agility are key
Increasing speed and agility is a central focus on the AI strategy, the CIO said, adding that those factors will be delivered to all DOD AI capabilities across every DOD mission.
"The success of our AI initiatives will rely upon robust relationships with internal and external partners. Interagency, industry, our allies and the academic community will all play a vital role in executing our AI strategy," Deasy said.
"I cannot stress enough the importance that the academic community will have for the JAIC," he noted. "Young, bright minds continue to bring fresh ideas to the table, looking at the problem set through different lenses. Our future success not only as a department, but as a country, depends on tapping into these young minds and capturing their imagination and interest in pursuing the job within the department."
Reforming DOD business
The last part of the NDS focuses on reform, the CIO said, and the JAIC will spark many new opportunities to reform the department's business processes. "Smart automation is just one such area that promises to improve both effectiveness and efficiency," he added.
AI will use an enterprise cloud foundation, which will also increase efficiencies across DOD, Deasy said. He noted that DOD will emphasize responsibility and use of AI through its guidance and vision principles for using AI in a safe, lawful and ethical way.
JAIC: focal point of AI
"It's hard to overstate the importance of operationalizing AI across the department, and to do so with the appropriate sense of urgency and alacrity," JAIC director Shanahan told reporters.
The DOD AI strategy applies to the entire department, he said, adding the JAIC is a focal point of the strategy. The JAIC was established in response to the 2019 National Defense Authorization Act, and stood up in June 2018 "to provide a common vision, mission and focus to drive department-wide AI capability delivery."
The JAIC has several critical mission themes, Shanahan said.
- First is the effort to accelerate delivery and adoption of AI capabilities across DOD, he noted. "This underscores the importance of transitioning from research and development to operational-fielded capabilities," he said. "The JAIC will operate across the full AI application lifecycle, with emphasis on near-term execution and AI adoption."
- Second is to establish a common foundation for scaling AI's impact, Shanahan said. "One of the JAIC's most-important contributions over the long term will be establishing a common foundation enabled by enterprise cloud with particular focus on shared data repositories for useable tools, frameworks and standards and cloud … services," he explained.
- Third, to synchronize DOD AI activities, related AI and machine-learning projects are ongoing across the department, and it's important to ensure alignment with the National Defense Strategy, the director said.
- Last is the effort to attract and cultivate a world-class AI team, Shanahan said.
Two pilot programs that are national mission initiatives – a broad, joint cross-cutting AI challenge – comprise preventive maintenance and humanitarian assistance and disaster relief, the director said, adding that "initial capabilities [will be] delivered over the next six months."
And while in its early stages, the JAIC is beginning to work with the U.S. Cyber Command on a space-related national mission initiative, he said.
"Everything we do in the JAIC will center on enhancing relationships with industry, academia, and with our allies and international partners," Shanahan said. "Within DOD, we will work closely with the services, Joint Staff, combatant commands, agencies and components."
The JAIC's mission, the director said, "nests nicely under the executive order that the president signed yesterday afternoon. We have a lot of work ahead of us, but there's no time to waste."