DC on T2

Capitol Corner — October 2018

Published monthly as part of the FLC’s DC Perspective content, Capitol Corner focuses on one notable news item pertaining to the T2 community. The focus stems from agency publications, news sites, and DC-central organizations, with original sources, contacts, and links provided. For more information and Corner-related inquiries, please contact dcnews@federallabs.org.

Artificial intelligence (AI) has seen massive spikes in federal interest over the past year. We’ve taken a look at how the government can better use AI technology to strengthen national security and international standing, employ future-proof initiatives at the Pentagon, and align a wider technology strategy with the rest of the world.

The Pentagon, which has already investigated “third-wave” AI technology as it relates to defense operations, recently discussed the ethics of AI on the battlefield at this month’s quarterly meeting of the Defense Innovation Board (DIB). Points summarized at this meeting include defining a set of AI principles to better determine standards to developing and deploying AI solutions in war zones, discussing steps to combat bias in AI systems, and scheduling open meetings and roundtables with various public- and private-sector groups. The meeting concluded with the promise of preparing and submitting a formal set of recommendations for AI at the Pentagon to Defense Secretary James Mattis by the end of fiscal year (FY) 2019.

This month’s Capitol Corner will dive deeper into the Pentagon’s current relationship with AI. To begin—what is the DIB?

The Defense Innovation Board (DIB)

According to its official website, the DIB advises Defense Secretary Mattis and the Department of Defense (DoD)—including the Defense Innovation Unit (DIU)—to spearhead and safeguard American defense innovation and entrepreneurship. The Board, with its private and public implications for national security and prosperity, is comprised of both scientific and business leaders to better apply an interdisciplinary approach to government technology.

While the DIB is an independent body and therefore cannot directly implement technological changes, it can recommend such advancements. The DIB has recommended the DoD “Catalyze Innovations in AI and Machine Learning (ML),” proposing a DoD center studies AI and ML, building expertise and technological superiority via industrial and academic cross-collaboration.

And while not entirely endorsed by or a result of the DIB recommendation, the Pentagon has already taken steps to solidify and professionalize AI in the defense space.

The Joint AI Center (JAIC)

At the quarterly DIB meeting held this past July, the DIU Experimental (DIUx) announced the Joint AI Center (JAIC). This Center, which was formed to centralize AI decision-making, partnerships, workforce development and the National Defense Strategy, has four major tenets summarized below.

  1. Matching technology with people and resources. No matter the speed of technology, the results the technology can bring to the DoD are dependent on the organization of personnel to receive and train using AI and the resources to adopt and deploy AI solutions and research pilots across the whole defense enterprise. As DIUx ML Head Brendan McCord said, the DoD needs to focus on accelerating “not just proof of concept, but things that bridge the last mile all the way to our end users and help to change the way they work.”
  2. Fostering stronger industry partnerships. To share both private AI advances and those developed by the JAIC itself, the Center will be used to evolve DoD partnership with leading AI industry firms and labs, as well as academia.
  3. Creating a hub for AI talent acquisition and development. This tenet was developed with the intention to create the AI principles teased at the October follow-up meeting. In addition, JAIC will be staffing its AI workforce with a series of practitioners, software engineers, and product managers to ensure proper ethics, humanitarian considerations, and short- and long-term safety with AI tools.
  4. Aligning AI technology with the National Defense Strategy. This tenet dovetails into the 2018 AI Strategy delivered to Congress last June. According to the DoD, the Strategy “emphasizes the need to increase the speed and agility with which we deliver AI-enabled capabilities and adapt our way of working, the importance of evolving our partnerships with industry and academia, and the Department's commitment to lead in military ethics and AI safety.” This additionally ties into the National Cyber Strategy, which has taken steps to prioritize next-generation cyber-infrastructure, including AI.


For more information on the future of the DIB, AI in the DoD, or other topics from this Capitol Corner, please visit the DIB’s Meetings web page, which includes full webcasts from both the October and July conferences.

DC on T2