AI News, Defense Department Releases Artificial Intelligence Strategy

The Insider

group of subject-matter experts recently reviewed the Navy's cybersecurity posture: The Navy should create a full-time chief information officer to dedicate proper resources to cybersecurity and act on department suggestions to improve the service’s cyber practices, according to a recent service review.

The Pentagon wants to pour nearly $1 billion into artificial intelligence and machine learning efforts next year, including $268 million for the new Joint Artificial Intelligence Center to pursue AI tools that can be used across the department, as well as helping the military services fund their own developments.

The Air Force's fiscal year 2020 budget proposes a flat F-35 procurement rate that would buy 48 jets per year across the future years defense program -- a reduction the service plans to offset by purchasing 80 Boeing-made F-15EX aircraft over that same period.

The Army's cross-functional teams in charge of managing the service's modernization priorities under Futures Command would get a total of $5.4 billion in research, development, test and evaluation funding the service has requested for fiscal year 2020, with some programs gaining significant boosts over what the service projected last year.

The Army's $182.3 billion fiscal year 2020 budget request would advance key service priorities through new research and development projects, including funding for contract awards supporting the Next Generation Combat Vehicle program and completion of the initial design phase for a major helicopter replacement program.

Building Modern Screw-Sloops? Strategic Choices about Artificial Intelligence in Defense

When militaries avoid making choices about new technologies, they often wind up with something like the “screw-sloop”: a hybrid solution that fails to take full advantage of either the old or the new technology.

A successful department-wide AI implementation at scale could be more transformative than steam propulsion since its impacts are likely to be more broadly felt.  But is the department poised to exploit the potential of AI, or is it on a path to building the equivalent of screw-sloops?

The unclassified summary of the Defense Department’s AI strategy, released on Feb. 12, is an attempt to send a strong public signal: We are on board to try everything and anything that gives us an edge in the emerging great power AI technological race.

Moving toward achieving that vision requires several additional hard steps, including identifying the gap between the data such a strategy would require and what’s actually available;

What are the combatant commands, the Joint Chiefs, and the Pentagon’s senior civilian leadership willing to give up in exchange for the benefits of AI?  Here are just a few of the challenging conversations the department needs to have and choices it needs to make: Data: The Lifeblood of Artificial Intelligences An effective Defense Department AI strategy requires an effective Defense Department data strategy.

The strategy frames the initial efforts of the recently established Joint Artificial Intelligence Center narrowly within the boundaries of defense systems to be used in key missions — in other words, automating defense.

The document envisions “improving situational awareness and decision-making, increasing the safety of operating equipment, implementing predictive maintenance and supply, and streamlining business processes.” Here, the data source seems to be the Pentagon’s internal stores of information.

Imagine the potential financial value of health care information that the Defense Department collects to anticipate, prioritize, and respond to threats, or data on the entertainment and purchasing preferences of the active duty force collected to help focus recruiting efforts.

But a strategy that involves the two-way sharing of data between the Defense Department and private companies like Amazon, Google, or Facebook poses challenging questions of privacy, civil liberties, and civil-military relations: Can the Pentagon purchase data from commercial sources that it would be prohibited from collecting itself?

Among the controversial data requirements associated with applying AI to this mission would be public health data to anticipate medical needs, cell phone data to reveal where and how people travel, and crime and business data to anticipate civil disorder.

citizens abroad, which intelligence agencies already routinely do, but this raises new concerns about classification and data-sharing, potential “spoofing” of U.S. data collection by adversaries, and the risk that U.S. data collection tools may be missing important parts of the data stream.

The Inefficiency IS the System The department’s AI strategy also seeks to “streamline business process” by reducing the time spent on “highly manual, repetitive and frequent tasks.” One might wonder if the authors of those words have spent much time in the Defense Department, since these goals are at odds with its culture.

Some highly manual, repetitive, and frequent business tasks are great candidates for AI, as anyone who has tried to book train travel in through the Defense Travel System would readily agree (readers attempting to click this link will note that their browser will resist with a privacy error due to an outdated certificate;

Government contracting and acquisition rules designed to guard against profiteering, graft, and corruption rigidly specify performance metrics and technical details in a way that prevents rapid integration of new technologies.

Interface between government software and private databases is similarly regulated by strict contracts specifying profits based on particular transaction models in a way that may remove the incentive for private partners to adapt to new government systems.

Another efficiency goal of the AI strategy is to “implement predictive maintenance and supply.” Predictive maintenance and supply creates efficiencies by predicting when equipment is likely to break and directing maintenance or parts to a problem just before it’s likely to occur.  This works best when operating conditions are predictable enough to extrapolate usable data and required parts are a few hours away via express delivery.

But the Navy and the Air Force, in particular, already suffer from reduced readiness, at least partly because of previous efforts to find efficiencies by deferring “unneeded” maintenance and adopting just-in-time logistics.  AI may or may not identify a better way to do these things — but will we believe the results produced by an algorithm if it says we need to spend more money supporting readiness?

Getting beyond secrecy also means finding new ways to either work in parallel with private industry, buy what is already available, or lead private industry down a path that is useful for the Defense Department.

The government simply does not have an internal workforce large or agile enough to identify which existing systems to shift, develop the intelligent tool for that system, implement it, maintain it, and then train its employees to operate it.

Indeed, Geurts has already shaken up the bureaucracy with the announcement of the creation of the NavalX agility office, designed to connect innovators, leaders, and corporate partners to rapidly field new technologies.

These executives are exactly the right people to answer tough questions of cyber security and information technology policy, but they may lack the institutional clout to persuade or prevail in broader, department-wide discussions about implementation of AI.

But putting the department’s chief information officer, rather than the secretary of defense, in the lead, suggests that despite language about innovation, risk, and the consequences of losing the AI race, the Pentagon isn’t yet ready to commit to AI.

Could artificial intelligence be the key to DOD completing a clean audit?

Jack Shanahan said the department has plenty of manual processes, like financial accounting, that can benefit from robotic process automation (RPA) to drive greater back-office efficiencies by augmenting manual, human work with algorithms and bots.

JAIC probably won’t lead that effort, he said, but it will probably play a role in “leading others to find out how to incorporate there into their back-office functions.” Shanahan pointed to finance, at the center of the Pentagon’s pursuit of a clean audit, as the first back-office function DOD should look to augment with AI, helping personnel “do much more work than they were able to do with [existing] tools, which in some cases are far too old, manual, laborious.”

The main challenge in tackling financial auditing across the largest enterprise in the world will be scoping it, Shanahan said — “finding out how big this is to go after the audit.” DOD Chief Data Officer Michael Conlin is helping explore this problem from the data side, which is the critical base on which AI stands, Shanahan added.

AI is a major priority for the Pentagon in its fiscal 2020 budget proposal. It asked appropriators for $208 million to scale JAIC, part of a $927 million request to boost the development of AI and machine learning for use in the field.

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As the NDS states, “[t]he reemergence of long-term strategic competition, rapid dispersion of technologies” such as “advanced computing, “big data” analytics, artificial intelligence” and others will be necessary to “ensure we will be able to fight and win the wars of the future.” The AI Strategy offers that “[t]he United States, together with its allies and partners, must adopt AI to maintain its strategic position, prevail on future battlefields, and safeguard [a free and open international] order.

We will lead in the responsible use and development of AI by articulating our vision and guiding principles for using AI in a lawful and ethical manner.” DoD will implement the AI Strategy through five main lines of effort: The AI Strategy emphasizes that “[f]ailure to adopt AI will result in legacy systems irrelevant to the defense of our people, eroding cohesion among allies and partners, reduced access to markets that will contribute to a decline in our prosperity and standard of living, and growing challenges to societies that have been built upon individual freedoms.” The Joint Artificial Intelligence Center (“JAIC”), which was established in June 2018, is led by Lt. Gen.

The EO directs federal departments and agencies to invest the resources necessary to drive technological breakthroughs in AI (and outpace China’s developments in this area), lead the develop of global technical standards, address workforce issues as industries adopt AI, foster trust in AI technologies, and promote U.S. research and innovation with allies and partners.

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