An official website of the United States Government 
Here's how you know

Official websites use .gov

.gov website belongs to an official government organization in the United States.

Secure .gov websites use HTTPS

A lock ( lock ) or https:// means you’ve safely connected to the .gov website. Share sensitive information only on official, secure websites.

Special Operations Strives to Use the Power of Artificial Intelligence

You have accessed part of a historical collection on Some of the information contained within may be outdated and links may not function. Please contact the DOD Webmaster with any questions.

U.S. Special Operations Command hopes to increasingly use artificial intelligence and machine learning in all aspects of warfare, its commander said.

Army Gen. Richard D. Clarke spoke virtually today with Hudson Institute scholars.


Clarke noted that Project Maven jump-started the employment of AI. Project Maven was initially executed to automate the processing and exploitation of full-motion video collected by intelligence, instead of relying on humans to sort through all of it.

With AI's ability to shift quickly through terabytes of data to find relevant pieces of intelligence, it allows the human to make faster and better informed decisions, he said.

AI can also be incredibly effective at monitoring the information environment, he said. 

Troops with rifles drawn perform tactics in a field.
Special Ops
U.S. Special Forces with 10th Special Forces Group assigned to Special Operations Command Europe rehearse room clearing procedures, Daugavpils, Latvia, Nov. 21, 2020 as part of Exercise Winter Shield 20. Winter Shield is a Latvian-led exercise incorporating U.S. and Latvian conventional and Special Operations Forces.
Photo By: Army Staff Sgt. Cory Lopes
VIRIN: 201121-A-KU361-454

During a recent visit with a special operations commander in Afghanistan, Clarke noted that the commander said influencing the population in a positive way can mean the difference between winning and losing.

Socom has been using AI for logistics, and the maintenance piece in particular, for more than two years now, he said. It saves money in terms of, for example, predicting engine life or failure on a tank or aircraft. And it allows better use of those assets.

AI-powered health care can predict injuries or point to treatments to get operators in the fight more quickly, he mentioned.

A robot walks in the desert.
Ghost Robotics Vision 60
A Ghost Robotics Vision 60 prototype walks with a security forces airman at a simulated austere base during the Advanced Battle Management System exercise, Nellis Air Force Base, Nev., Sept. 1, 2020. The prototype uses artificial intelligence and rapid data analytics to detect and counter threats to military assets in space and possible attacks on the homeland with missiles or other means.
Photo By: Air Force Airman First Class Zachary Rufus
VIRIN: 200903-F-LY743-1003C

In the realm of mission command, AI will power the Joint All-Domain Command and Control system, which will allow commanders to better communicate and make decisions, he said.

While Socom is forging ahead quickly with AI, Clarke mentioned that his organization is also working closely with the military services and organizations like the Joint Artificial Intelligence Center, as well as with industry, allies and partners.

Clarke emphasized that it's important that commanders set the tone and set the conditions to allow innovation and encourage people to come up with great ideas.

An airman directs a helicopter landing.
Snowy Approach
Airman 1st Class Andrew County, a tactical air control party apprentice assigned to the 3rd Air Support Operations Squadron, marshals an approaching Alaska Army National Guard UH-60L Black Hawk helicopter during small unit training, Joint Base Elmendorf-Richardson, Alaska, Nov. 18, 2020.
Photo By: Air Force photo by Alejandro Peña
VIRIN: 201118-F-HY271-0204

Humans are more important than the hardware, he said. "It's the talented people that we have to help foster. You've got to invest the human capital into this space."

Looking to the future, Clarke said he is optimistic that AI will be successfully leveraged by the Defense Department to maintain the lead against peer competitors China and Russia. It will require updating policy and infrastructure, using cloud computing and having the right people who are enabled with the right leadership. 

Related Stories