(This article was originally published in Global Policy Watch.)
On February 12, 2019 the Department of Defense released a summary and supplementary fact sheet of its artificial intelligence strategy (“AI Strategy”). The AI Strategy has been a couple of years in the making as the Trump administration has scrutinized the relative investments and advancements in artificial intelligence by the United States, its allies and partners, and potential strategic competitors such as China and Russia. The animating concern was articulated in the Trump administration’s National Defense Strategy (“NDS”): strategic competitors such as China and Russia has made investments in technological modernization, including artificial intelligence, and conventional military capability that is eroding U.S. military advantage and changing how we think about conventional deterrence. As the NDS states, “[t]he reemergence of long-term strategic competition, rapid dispersion of technologies” such as “advanced computing, “big data” analytics, artificial intelligence” and others will be necessary to “ensure we will be able to fight and win the wars of the future.”
The AI Strategy offers that “[t]he United States, together with its allies and partners, must adopt AI to maintain its strategic position, prevail on future battlefields, and safeguard [a free and open international] order. We will also seek to develop and use AI technologies in ways that advance security, peace, and stability in the long run. We will lead in the responsible use and development of AI by articulating our vision and guiding principles for using AI in a lawful and ethical manner.”
DoD will implement the AI Strategy through five main lines of effort:
- Delivering AI-enabled capabilities that address key missions
- Scaling AI’s impact across DOD through a common foundation that enables decentralized development and experimentation
- Cultivating a leading AI workforce
- Engaging with commercial, academic, and international allies and partners
- Leading in military ethics and AI safety
The AI Strategy emphasizes that “[f]ailure to adopt AI will result in legacy systems irrelevant to the defense of our people, eroding cohesion among allies and partners, reduced access to markets that will contribute to a decline in our prosperity and standard of living, and growing challenges to societies that have been built upon individual freedoms.”
The Joint Artificial Intelligence Center (“JAIC”), which was established in June 2018, is led by Lt. Gen. Jack Shanahan and reports to the DoD Chief Information Officer Dana Deasy. It is designated as the principal implementer and integrator of the AI Strategy. Specifically, the JAIC will coordinate activities that align with DoD’s strategic approach, such as: (1) rapidly delivering AI-enabled capabilities; (2) establishing a common foundation for scaling AI’s impact across DoD; (3) facilitating AI planning, policy, governance, ethics, safety, cybersecurity, and multilateral coordination; and (4) attracting and cultivating world-class personnel.
The AI Strategy makes clear that DoD recognizes that “[t]he present moment is pivotal: we must act to protect our security and advance our competiveness, seizing the initiative to lead the world in the development and adoption of transformative defense AI solutions that are safe, ethical, and secure. JAIC will spearhead this effort, engaging with the best minds in government, the private sector, academia, and international community. The speed and scale of the change required are daunting, but we must embrace change if we are to reap the benefits of continued security and prosperity for the future.” Accordingly, Lt. Gen. Shanahan and Dana Deasy, speaking to a group of reporters, highlighted that DoD has recently invested $90 million in AI-related research and technology development, and that DoD will request additional resources for the JAIC in its fiscal year 2020 budget request in order to support its execution of the AI Strategy.
The DoD strategy comes on the heels of President Trump’s Executive Order (“EO”), “Maintaining American Leadership in Artificial Intelligence,” that launches a coordinated federal government strategy for artificial intelligence. The EO directs federal departments and agencies to invest the resources necessary to drive technological breakthroughs in AI (and outpace China’s developments in this area), lead the develop of global technical standards, address workforce issues as industries adopt AI, foster trust in AI technologies, and promote U.S. research and innovation with allies and partners.