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Artificial Intelligence Key to Maintaining Military, Economic Advantages, Leaders Say

April 9, 2021 | BY David Vergun , DOD News

Officials today discussed the National Security Commission on Artificial Intelligence's recent report and the progress for the adoption and implementation of AI across the Defense Department.

Marine Corps Lt. Gen. Michael S. Groen, director of the Joint Artificial Intelligence Center, and Robert O. Work, vice chair of the NSCAI, spoke to reporters at the Pentagon.

A small drone sits on the ground.
Ghost Drone
A Modular Ghost Drone is displayed before a flight demonstration on Marine Corps Air Station Miramar, San Diego, California, March 24, 2021. The drone is part of the collaboration between MCAS Miramar and NavalX’s SoCal Tech Bridge, which enables the station to utilize the artificial-intelligence-enabled, autonomous drone to further strengthen the base’s security and force protection capabilities. (U.S. Marine Corps photo by Lance Cpl. Cheng Chang)
Photo By: Marine Corps Lance Cpl. Cheng Chang
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Work provided an overview of the report:

The United States does not have a strategy, organizational structure and resources to win the competition with China for effective implementation of AI, he said.

"So the first thing is we have got to do is to take this competition seriously, and we need to win it."

1:02:49

To win, AI must receive the necessary funding, at least 3.4% of the DOD budget. Those funds should then be channeled into priority areas as recommended by a steering committee consisting of the deputy defense secretary, the vice chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff and the principal director of national intelligence, he said, noting that a good first step was having the JAIC report directly to the deputy defense secretary.

That steering committee would also remove any bureaucratic obstacles and would oversee the development of a technology annex to the National Defense Strategy, Work said. 

Also the department should set AI readiness performance goals by the end of this fiscal year, with an eye toward AI-ready implementation by 2025, he said.

A small ground vehicle sits on desk.
DeepRacer Vehicle
Naval Information Warfare Center Atlantic's Amazon Web Services DeepRacer vehicle is opened up for maintenance and a last minute check in North Charleston, S.C., March 19, 2021, before being shipped off to participate in the first annual virtual Army-Navy AWS DeepRacer Challenge. The challenge is centered around racing autonomous vehicles powered by artificial intelligence.
Photo By: Joe Bullinger, Navy
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Work noted that the U.S. is still the world leader in AI, but China is structured to rapidly advance with its strong government support to academia, the private sector and People's Liberation Army.

Identifying the right talent for AI, ensuring AI is used in an ethically responsible manner and forming international partnerships are other ingredients for successful AI implementation, Work said.

Groen said the department agrees with the report and is already implementing about 100 of recommendations that were given. Other recommendations would be included in feasibility studies.

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Machine Learning Workshop
Rick Naystatt, audiovisual production specialist assigned to Naval Information Warfare Systems Command, San Diego, participates in a briefing during the virtual Naval Applications of Machine Learning workshop, March 24, 2021.
Photo By: Elisha Gamboa, Navy
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"AI as a core tenet of defense modernization," Groen said. AI efforts will be fundamental to achieving quality networks and data services in a secure manner.

"We've created positive momentum for AI, and we continue to build on that now. But now comes the real critical test in any transformation. The hardest part is institutional change and change management of the workforce and practices and processes that drive a business. This step will not be easy, even within the Department of Defense, but it's foundational to our competitive success, our accountability and our affordability," he said. "We have a generational opportunity here for AI to be our future. We must act now. We need to start putting these pieces into place now."

AI isn't just important for the DOD's warfighting capabilities, it will also be a powerful driver of the American economy, Groen said.

Link to the report: Final Report.