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Defense Department Official Says 'Victory Garden' Approach Could Aid AI Effort

Gerald Scroop

September 10, 2020

Americans bolstered the war effort during World War II by planting "victory gardens." Every citizen's small contribution to the war effort added up to a lot of support. The same can be done to further the Defense Department's efforts to advance artificial intelligence, said the acting director of the Joint Artificial Intelligence Center.

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"The first step in doing this involves thinking critically about the work that you do," said Nand Mulchandani yesterday during the opening session at the DOD AI Symposium. "Can you do it more efficiently? Can you rethink it? Could it benefit from automation, analytics or predictive capabilities? Is it 'data-rich?' If so, it might be a perfect candidate to build your own AI victory garden around."

Mulchandani said DOD employees can plant "technological seeds" by learning more about AI, defining areas within their own work environment where AI could help solve problems, developing business strategies to implement AI capabilities, organizing and preserving data, starting an AI project, and sharing lessons learned from their own AI efforts with others across the department.

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"The good news is that you'll have support from the JAIC and the AI community that we’re building across the government, industry and academia," Mulchandani said.

The JAIC was begun in 2018 to accelerate DOD's adoption and integration of AI. From the start, Mulchandani said, the JAIC was meant to serve as an AI center of excellence and to provide resources, tools and expertise to the department.

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Today, the JAIC is involved in pathfinder technology projects, coordinating with industry and academia on AI, training and education, AI governance and policy, testing and evaluation, international engagement, and AI ethics implementation.

While the mission of the JAIC is broad and far-reaching, Mulchandani said the JAIC alone can't make AI happen across the department.

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"This is a massive effort and is one that the JAIC embraces because we understand that all of these initiatives will help create the conditions for us to achieve victory with AI," he said. "But we cannot do this alone … no single organization can tackle the challenges of fielding AI on their own — it will take our entire community."

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