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CHIPS Articles: Attention DoD. Think AI Doesn’t Apply to You? Think Again.

Attention DoD. Think AI Doesn’t Apply to You? Think Again.
By JAIC Public Affairs - December 7, 2020
It is easy to dismiss Artificial Intelligence as “just a fancy IT system that doesn’t affect me or my job,” but that assumption is rooted in a fundamental misunderstanding of what AI is, what it does, and how it helps us. A lot of that comes from the image we have been fed over the years: that AI is the stuff of science fiction or a Hollywood fantasy. Because of this many DoD users have come to believe that AI has no relation to how they execute their duties. And that is not true.

Simply put, Artificial Intelligence is transformative, general-purpose technology that can significantly impact the speed and quality of how military operators and end users:

  • Make Data-Informed Decisions.
  • Make Sense of Large Amounts of Information.
  • Manage Time Intensive Laborious Processes.
  • Plan Operations and Evolutions.
  • Apply Predictive Analysis for Maintenance and Logistics Operations.

And this is where the DoD’s Joint Artificial Intelligence Center (JAIC) comes into play. The JAIC is the tip of the spear when it comes to leveraging the transformational value of AI. We are working to transform the Department and integrate our AI- and Machine Learning-enabled tools into everything from strategic operations to business systems and even warfighting doctrine. The JAIC works collaboratively across all of the Services, the Combatant Commands, and the Fourth Estate to build infrastructure that will enable the delivery of AI-based solutions, develop a culture that is open to the adoption of AI-enabled tools, and ensure access for all DoD users.

What AI Is Not

The creation of AI- and ML-enabled tools is not materiel development, it is a capacity-building development activity. The focus of AI transformation and enablement is not the same thing as developing a new weapons systems or operational capability. AI efforts are neither driven by a single problem set nor are they Service-specific. It is about laying a foundation that enables future strategic operations and allows us to solve for the challenges of tomorrow, not just the ones of today.

AI is not just commander’s business; it is something that impacts us all. Yes, AI promotes data-driven decision-making that commanders use to inform their strategic judgment, but ultimately DoD’s AI efforts are focused on promoting organizational and operational success regardless of the level at which they operate.

It is not new or emerging — AI is already here. The private sector has it and our allies and strategic competitors are developing AI capabilities as well. We live in the Information Age, basic AI-enabled capabilities surround us every day. To maintain our competitive advantage in national security we need to adapt, exploit, and further develop these capabilities.

What AI Is

AI shapes our decision-making. You can see this clearly when it comes to providing First Responders with critical information during times of natural disaster. Using AI-enabled tools, the DoD can enhance the accuracy of information and provide it at the speed of operations, keeping responders safe and ensuring the safety of civilian lives.

The successful integration of AI-enabled applications to existing warfighting processes provides us with key advantages, both operationally and strategically. On an operational level, AI-enabled tools provide enhanced speed and agility to carry out the mission successfully and ensure the safety of our men and women in uniform. Strategically integrating these applications into existing and emerging systems, processes, and platforms will serve to deter potential adversaries who are seeking to engage in a sustained combat action.

The business of national security runs the gamut from warfighting to humanitarian assistance; the DoD’s operations run 24/7 on every continent of the world and even into the domains of space to cyberspace. Successfully executing these efforts requires a complex series of business operations that generate tremendous amounts of data. It is in this area that AI’s transformative value can excel — extending from the frontlines to the back office. In order to manage the data successfully, securely, and efficiently, AI-enabled tools can provide a strategic view of what is happening across all those operational lines. This allows users to better manage resources, eliminating inefficiencies and exploiting previously untapped areas.

Leveraging AI tools is enabling the Department to take advantage of vast quantities of data to improve operational readiness and ensure that all equipment is prepared and ready for the operation at hand. The information has always been there, but it was broken down into silos and non-standardized formats. With AI, the information can be accessed and brought forward quickly into real-time analysis and decision-making. The application of these tools enhances the ability of the Department to carry out maintenance and logistics and has a direct, measurable impact on DoD operations. Whether an operation is carried out on land, sea, or in the air, warfighters rely on their equipment to carry out that mission. The distinction between success or failure depends on the ability of that equipment to perform. Applying AI to how we manage operational readiness increases the odds of mission success — and of everyone coming home safe and sound.

The Problem Pull: How You Can Help

Talking about transformation is one thing — putting it into action is another matter altogether. At the heart of accomplishing that transformation is the identification of the problems we need to solve, and that is where you can help. We are actively seeking out “real-world” problems that can be solved by AI and ML, and we want to hear from you about what problems you face in your job that you think we can help you solve using AI.

At the JAIC, we have identified multiple areas where AI and ML can be of use — from the predictive benefits associated with warfighter health to using AI-driven tools to enhance joint readiness. But we have not captured every area, and we cannot do this alone. We need to hear from the voices of experience who can tell us exactly where the most pressing problems currently lie— both the simple and the seemingly intractable. Then we need to think critically about how we can solve those problems. Where do we find that voice of experience? From each one of you.

To be clear, we want to hear from everyone, but we recognize that those who already have a focus on data-driven methodology know to come find us and see how we can assist. What is equally important is to hear from the DoD consumers who have use cases — but don’t necessarily know how or what resources are available to jumpstart their AI projects. At the JAIC, we want to find these consumer use cases and amplify the work they do, but that requires everyone helping us get the word out to them.

The transformational value of AI-enabled solutions is vast and will touch every part of the Department. It is for this reason that the JAIC is taking up multiple Mission Initiatives designed to develop and deploy AI-based tools to solve some of the Department’s biggest challenges. However, it is not just the biggest challenges that we want to solve. Remember, the JAIC is the tip of the spear. Come to us with your problem set and let us determine how AI enablement can assist you in your mission.

Our Joint Common Foundation enables us to scale for any solution. The JCF is a shared environment that provides tools, repositories, and best practices that can be repurposed as needed; the JCF is how we accelerate the design, development, testing, and sustainment of DoD-wide AI capabilities. Those users and consumers who lack the technology resources or data libraries to solve their problems can leverage the JCF to develop and test the AI-driven solutions that will work for them.

Why We Cannot Wait

Artificial Intelligence is already here — the private sector is scaling AI-enabled capabilities into all facets of our work and our personal lives. We benefit from those technology innovations. We owe it to our men and women in uniform to develop best-in-class AI-enabled capabilities that provide data-driven decision-making. Doing so means enabling the warfighter with the tools they need to successfully carry out the mission at hand and come home safely.

We are surrounded by the artifacts of the Information Age. We are familiar with them; we use them — but we do not always give a lot of thought to the implications that this has on warfare and defense operations. We need to start thinking about how to do exactly that. To maintain our competitive advantage, we need to move forward rapidly and at the speed of operations. Failure to do so runs the risk of losing our competitive advantage.

The way to succeed is to transform the DoD through the integration of AI-enabled tools and artifacts into every part of what we do: the way we decide, the way we fight, the way we manage, and the way we prepare.

So think about the challenges you face in the execution of your mission: what information you have a hard time getting, what decision you wish you could make faster, or just what you just wish could be different or better. Then contact us and let’s see how AI can positively impact what you do. Even better, the solution we come up will not only help you — we’ll be able to leverage it to help improve operations across the DoD. A more efficient Department enabled through AI and emerging technology will generate and more effective Department and fighting force. The end result – transformation.

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