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Joe Lacdan

Army says artificial intelligence could be a game changer

(Photo by John Snyder)

The Army is looking at artificial intelligence to increase lethality, and a senior Army official said the key to A.I. is keeping a proper level of decision-making in the hands of soldiers.

Assistant Secretary of the Army for Acquisition, Logistics and Technology Dr. Bruce Jette spoke about artificial intelligence, modernization and acquisition reform Jan. 10, 2019, at a Defense Writers Group breakfast.


Jette said response times against enemy fire could be a crucial element in determining the outcome of a battle, and A.I. could definitely assist with that.

"A.I. is critically important," he said. "You'll hear a theme inside of ASA(ALT), 'time is a weapon.' That's one of the aspects that we're looking at with respect to A.I."

Dr. Bruce Jette, assistant secretary of the Army for acquisition, logistics and technology, discusses artificial intelligence and modernization with reporters at the Defense Writer's Group breakfast Jan. 10, 2019.

(Photo by Joe Lacden)

Army Under Secretary Ryan McCarthy has been very active in positioning the Army so that it can pick up such critical new technology, Jette said.

Artificial intelligence technology will play a crucial role in the service's modernization efforts, Jette said, and should incrementally increase response times.

"Let's say you fire a bunch of artillery at me and I can shoot those rounds down and you require a man in the loop for every one of the shots," Jette said. "There's not enough men to put in the loop to get them done fast enough," but he added AI could be the answer.

He said the service must weigh how to create a command and control system that will judiciously take advantage of the crucial speed that technology provides.

A.I. research and development is being boosted by creation of the Army Futures Command, Jette said.

Smoother process

One year after the Army revamped itself under the guidance of Secretary Mark T. Esper and Chief of Staff Gen. Mark A. Milley, the service has seen significant improvements in the acquisition process, Jette said.

The Army identified six modernization priorities and created new cross-functional teams under Futures Command, to help speed acquisition of critical systems.

One change involves senior leaders meeting each Monday afternoon to assess and evaluate a different modernization priority. Jette said those meetings have resulted in a singular focus on modernization programs.

Artificial intelligence, robotics and advanced manufacturing were the theme of the April-June 2017 issue of Army AL&T magazine and its cover art is shown here.

(US Army photo)

"There's much more of an integrated, collegial, cooperative approach to things," Jette said.

The service took a hard look at the requirements process for the Army's integrated systems. This enabled the Army to apply a holistic approach in order to develop the diverse range of capabilities necessary to maintain overmatch against peer adversaries, Jette said. One result is, the Army will deliver new air defense systems by December 2019, he said.

"I don't deliver you a Patriot battery anymore," Jette said. "I deliver you missile systems. I deliver you radars. I deliver you a command and control architecture."

Now, any of the command and control components will be able to fire missiles against peer adversaries and can also leverage any of the sensor systems to employ an effector against a threat, he said.

"We're looking at the overall threat environment," Jette said. "Threats have become much more complicated. It's not just tactical ballistic missiles, or jets or helicopters. Now we've got UAVs (unmanned aerial vehicles), I've got swarms. I've got cruise missiles, rockets, artillery, and mortars. I've got to find a way to integrate all this."

A retired Army colonel, reporting directly to Esper, Jette provides oversight for the development and acquisition of Army weapons systems. He said that his role in the modernization efforts is to find a way to align procurement with improved requirements development processes.

This article originally appeared on the United States Army. Follow @USArmy on Twitter.