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Army acquisition head looks at AI to upgrade logistics

The Army is in the midst of major modernization efforts. But there is concern that logistics, especially when incorporating new technologies such as automation or artificial intelligence, isn't always part of the process. Army acquisition head, Bruce Jette, wants to change that.

"There's huge advantages that are all being, right now, hampered by a lack of logistics concepts," Jette said during the Association of the U.S. Army's Hot Topic event on sustainment May 29. "How do I load the vehicle? How about I have a robotic vehicle that refuels?"

But there are risks, he said, and while refueling on a defensive line is possible, the fueling truck becomes vulnerable. Jette proposed this: making logistics a part of the weapon design, at the start, so the implications of robotic and other automated technology have already been considered.

"How about we think of logistics as an integrated component of how we design a weapons system so that it can load itself. Where one robot can load another robot," he said, acknowledging that driving is probably the hardest part of a robotics system because there are always obstacles.

"I need you here to open your minds a bit about what we might be able to do with logistics and make it clear how logistic enablers really are combat enablers," he said.

Jette spoke with reporters following the event and said the Army is already employing newer logistical concepts on younger programs and having more discussion of the impact of making certain changes, such as getting humans out of a tank turret.

But success isn't measurable yet, he said, because the technology has matured enough. Jette said the priority is thinking through logistical challenges, while pushing for more automation.

"Whenever you're building something like this, you're always thinking about 'what am I breaking'," he told reporters following the event.

"Is it ok to break that before I start building something? If I take three people out of the turret do I need three more mechanics? Do I do automated repair? ... If I decide to have a robot take the engine out so we can do a quick disconnect, do I lose the capability that I originally designed the [specification] for?" he asked. "That's what we're working on now."

About the Author

Lauren C. Williams is a staff writer at FCW covering defense and cybersecurity.

Prior to joining FCW, Williams was the tech reporter for ThinkProgress, where she covered everything from internet culture to national security issues. In past positions, Williams covered health care, politics and crime for various publications, including The Seattle Times.

Williams graduated with a master's in journalism from the University of Maryland, College Park and a bachelor's in dietetics from the University of Delaware. She can be contacted at lwilliams@fcw.com, or follow her on Twitter @lalaurenista.

Click here for previous articles by Wiliams.


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