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Artificial Intelligence Community Growing, Transitioning

Gerald Scroop

September 10, 2020

The Defense Department's artificial intelligence community has moved from being "AI pioneers to being AI practitioners," Nand Mulchandani, the acting director of the Pentagon's Joint Artificial Intelligence Center, said.

Mulchandani spoke today to Pentagon reporters about the changes artificial intelligence will mean to DOD.

… I can clearly tell you that what we're seeing here is the building of a community that is mobilizing to get things done."

Nand Mulchandani, acting director, Pentagon’s Joint Artificial Intelligence Center

U.S. officials call artificial intelligence a game-changer for the military. Russia and China  are also investing in AI to tap into the great power competition that dominates the AI strategic landscape. 

The JAIC director noted that China is using AI to facilitate facial recognition for population control and erecting the "great firewall" to censor the internet. "Our focus is on partnership with American industry," he said. 

The JAIC wants to get AI-enabled capabilities into the hands of service members at the tactical edge as soon as possible. To that end is the development of an AI community. A community is a great precursor to the adoption of any technology that seeps into general use, Mulchandani said. "And I can clearly tell you that what we're seeing here is the building of a community that is mobilizing to get things done."

On the technology front, JAIC is developing the joint common foundation. This will make it easier for AI developers to work with DOD. The office is also developing solutions for joint warfighting operations.

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The office is less than two years old, but still many JAIC products are now in prototype, in testing, or in production. One JAIC product helps U.S. Special Operations Command predict engine failures. Another is helping fire officials fight the catastrophic blazes in California. U.S. Northern Command is using JAIC products to predict supply chain and logistics issues. "We're also making great progress in AI governance, and in implementing AI ethical principles from acquisition, development, testing and evaluation," Mulchandani said.

AI is "just tech," he said. "We need to get good at acquiring, deploying and operating software at scale for us to be successful. The JAIC is executing across a broad front of AI from products to policy work; ethics and international relations; acquisition to training and education to our engagement with customers across the DOD."

The DOD is sponsoring a defense forum for AI partnership next week. Allies and partner nations from more than 10 nations will participate. "This initiative embodies American leadership in AI and demonstrates the importance … that the department places in shaping our defense cooperation for this new era," Mulchandani said.

All of the initiatives are aimed at delivering AI-enabled capabilities to warfighters at the tactical edge, he said. "We want to do this with confidence that the systems will work, and will follow ethical and policy guidelines," the director said.

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