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Pentagon plans to publish broad artificial intelligence strategy ‘within weeks’

The Pentagon (David B. Gleason/Wikimedia Commons)

A top Defense Department tech official on Tuesday said the Pentagon is weeks away from publishing its first broad strategy for artificial intelligence.

The department plans to release a report detailing its long-term plans for artificial intelligence “within weeks” as leaders increasingly stress the technology’s potential to strengthen national security, said Thomas Michelli, the department’s acting deputy chief information officer for cybersecurity.

Though he didn’t disclose specifics regarding the strategy, Michelli said the Pentagon is standing up a number of artificial intelligence capabilities across the enterprise and people should expect “a big announcement” in the weeks to come.

The department’s updated cyber strategy, which is scheduled to publish shortly before the artificial intelligence plan, will also discuss AI and offer more details on how the military is funneling additional resources into the technology, according to Michelli.

“We have to move forward or else we’ll lose [our] competitive advantage,” he said at a forum hosted by GovernmentCIO Media. “Both China and Russia are … investing heavily in artificial intelligence, so we need to keep up and implement as well.”

Defense Secretary James Mattis has repeatedly emphasized the positive impact AI could have on military operations and last week the department’s Chief Information Officer Dana Deasy listed the technology as one of four strategic modernization areas for supporting the National Defense Strategy. The Pentagon recently announced plans to establish an AI innovation center where it will collaborate on high-stakes projects with industry and academia. It expects the center will employ some 200 researchers within the next two years.

Outside the military, artificial intelligence is already playing an increasingly important role in the nation’s national security operations as agencies are flooded with more data than they can handle, said Kristin St. Peter, the deputy associate director for capabilities at the National Geospatial-Intelligence Agency.

Every day, NGA must sift through enormous troves of data to keep the Pentagon and intelligence community up-to-date on threats across the globe, and analysts rely heavily on automation and AI tools to do so, St. Peter said at the forum.

When questioned on lawmakers’ role in governing agencies’ use of AI, St. Peter hinted Congress may soon get involved in determining what areas of AI development federal groups prioritize.

“I think [AI] is an area of interest, and any time that the government’s interested in spending money on something, they’re going to be interested in telling us how they want that money spent,” she said. “I would expect that, yes, eventually the legislation will catch up with any appropriations that may or may not be coming from the Hill.”


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