How the Defense Department wants to measure the success of its AI hub

From division of
Sightline Media Group


WASHINGTON Media  — The Pentagon’s top artificial intelligence office, called the Joint Artificial Intelligence Center, is shifting its focus and wants 2021 to be the year that it becomes the central repository for military components looking to use AI.

“How will we know when JAIC is successful? It’s when the term JAIC is used in conversations at all levels,” DoD CIO Dana Deasy said in late November on a FedScoop webinar. “[It’s] when people will say, ‘Was that data run through JAIC? Did those algorithms get pushed out today through JAIC? Did you guys go to JAIC and put that in the library? Did you go and look at the integration solutions from JAIC?’”

“The term — that word JAIC — starts to get used in the vernacular of people’s day-to-day conversations, then that all feels like the original vision that we put in place for Jake is really starting to be brought to life.”

The cornerstone to that effort, according to Deasy and JAIC Director Lt. Gen. Michael Groen, is the Joint Common Foundation, a central repository being built by the JAIC through a $106 million award to Deloitte. Services can use that platform to get tools, models and other software to develop artificial intelligence programs.

The goal is for JCF to be a place where personnel can bring their data, and the JAIC can provide services such as labeling, curation and eventually, algorithm storage and cataloging, Groen said.

“One of the things we’ve discovered is the problems across the department that we can solve through AI, they cluster — meaning you can … reuse algorithms across different applications,” he said.

The JAIC also will provide “soft services,” such as assistance with test and evaluation and contracts.

“A lot of cases, especially some of our more advanced partners, all they need is like access to a contract vehicle. They don’t really need anything else, so we can do that for them,” Groen said.

This year, the JAIC expanded its mission focuses to include joint war fighting, an important mission given the military services focuses on multidomain operations — a concept that will require artificial intelligence to increase the speed at which data flows and commanders make decisions. In calendar year 2021, the JAIC will focus on war fighter integration and creation of an artificial intelligence ecosystem, Groen said, building on the work each respective service is doing.

One outstanding challenge that the JAIC faces in that mission is making sure that data used for war fighting is trusted.

“It has to be a trusted ecosystem, meaning we actually have to know if we’re going to bring data into a fires capability, we have to know that that’s good data,” Groen said. “So … how do we build an ecosystem so that we can know the provenance of data, we can ensure that the algorithms are tested to a satisfactory way, that we can comfortably and safely integrate data and decision-making across war-fighting functions?”

About Andrew Eversden

Andrew Eversden is a federal IT and cybersecurity reporter for the Federal Times and Fifth Domain. He previously worked as a congressional reporting fellow for the Texas Tribune and Washington intern for the Durango Herald. Andrew is a graduate of American University.

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