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AI & Analytics

Pentagon to send AI, data teams to combatant commands this summer

The Defense Department will start sending out teams of data and artificial intelligence experts in the next month to help combatant commands speed AI implementation efforts as part of a new initiative.

"Our combatant commanders have some of the most intense decision-making environments, but have yet to have the opportunity to apply the latest tools to responsive decision support. And we want to correct that. And we want to do that in a repeatable way," Lt. Gen. Michael Groen, the director of the Defense Department's Joint Artificial Intelligence Center, told reporters June 24.

DOD announced it was launching the AI and data accelerator (ADA) initiative during its AI symposium earlier that week. The goal, Groen said, is to test algorithms in real warfighter scenarios to uncover potential barriers to adoption, from latency issues to policy constraints.

The JAIC is also working with the individual services on their efforts from the Army's Project Convergence to the Navy's Project Overmatch and the Air Force's Advanced Battle Management System, but it aims to address data readiness challenges from cleaning data to workflows and so allow combatant commanders to "experiment with data driven decision-making," Groen said.

The first data reinforcement teams will likely be deployed over the next 30 days with the JAIC helping combatant commands build flyaway teams within the next 90 days, he said.

"We also want to do that in a way that scales. If we make progress at one combatant command and help their decision processes, we expect to be able to rapidly scale those capabilities across other combatant commands to help their decision-making as well," Groen said.

The general said the initiative will help the DOD rethink development and infrastructure as it tries to shift to more software-defined capabilities as part of a "new operating model" with "pieces that purposely fit together."

"You can do it in a lab. But when you bring that lab-tested capability out to the combatant commander or out somewhere on the tactical edge, you're going to realize, 'Holy cow, the latency here is horrible'…[or] the reliability and the uptime of the servers that are required is not sufficient."

Groen said bureaucratic, technical and cultural obstacles are expected, which is why involvement from DOD's CIOs and chief data officers is crucial to improving the networks and policies.

"If we learn what those obstacles are, then we can address the real problems [with] AI implementation," Groen said. "Until we can actually employ them on, in the environments that they're expected to operate in and then expect it to work, we're not going to know. And that's unacceptable to us."

This article first appeared on FCW, a Defense Systems partner site. 

About the Author

Lauren C. Williams is senior editor for FCW and Defense Systems, 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 [email protected], or follow her on Twitter @lalaurenista.

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