The Pentagon Needs To Change How It Does AI

Rapid technological changes and automation are dramatically changing the nature of work and the focus of these changes is moving to military applications, especially in the field of Artificial Intelligence (AI). 

In the US there is an active debate over military leadership in technology and the competition with China, which focused on the assumption that there is a big first-mover advantage when it comes to AI technologies, 

Now,  the US Department of Defense (DoD) is considering organisational changes designed to create a more integrated approach to Data and AI, including the creation of a Chief Data and Artificial Intelligence Officer (CDAO).

 Technological leadership requires Data and AI management to be effective and the Pentagon's efforts to date are widely considered inadequate compared to those China. As an illustration, it is thought that there are 15 separate Pentagon managed  institutions investing in AI-related technologies, basic AI capabilities, or applications that use AI in development, each with its own separate processes, data, code and programs.

There is not enough structured coordination between them or oversight through a central “AI hub” and this only undermines the US’ ability to take the lead in new technologies. 

Consolidated oversight through creating an empowered CDAO could help ensure the DoD has the tools it needs to excel and ensure US defense innovation leadership moving forward.

Adopting emerging technologies requires experimenting with the institutional structures necessary to take advantage of them. The consolidation of the office of the CDO, the JAIC, and the DDS offices under the CDAO represents a potential moment of organisational growth for DoD when it comes to taking data and emerging technology seriously. 

  • The Chief Data Officer is responsible for data management and coordination across the Department.
  • The JAIC was created to help DoD enable and implement uses of artificial intelligence.
  • The Defense Digital Service is a data science strike team designed to handle data and security issues. 

Earlier in 2021, the JAIC became a direct report to the Deputy Secretary of Defense. Previously, it reported to the Chief Information Officer, however, the JAIC has a conflict between being a developer of algorithms itself and being an enabler that helps the military services work out how to develop and implement algorithms within relevant military programs. The JAIC does not  the authority to compel the military services and other institutions to collaborate, whereas a closer link between the Pentagon'’s data and AI hubs will give the overall development  effort better access to necessary data to succeed.

The proposed reorganisation could face bureaucratic obstacles that undermine the goal of consolidated AI, data, and digital leadership. For example, The organisation also needs the authority to get the Pentagon's various  components, especially the individual military services, to share data from databases never designed for sharing. 

The reorganisation seems necessary, because the existing institutions do not have the focus to effectively coordinate the Pentagon's efforts. 

The potential reorganisation of AI and data efforts will provide an opportunity for more integrated  emerging technology leadership that can connect with the required military capabilities and close relationships with other technology partners, whether in Research & Engineering or in the military services, will be essential. 

The  proposed  reorganisation will ultimately succeed or fail based on the support it receives from senior Pentagon leadership. The US has the technical and financial capacity to become a world leader in AI, but it needs to take the necessary steps to adopt technical innovations, if it is to succeed.

CFR:      CFR:       CFR:        DefenseOne:       Days Tech:      Breaking Defense:      DigiChat

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