The Pentagon’s AI Factory Gets a Powerful New Tool

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The Joint Common Foundation aims to help the Department to standardize and secure its data and make it easier to find.

The “factory” that pumps out AI tools for the Pentagon is about to get a new tool of its own, one that leaders of the Joint Artificial Intelligence Center, or JAIC, hope will streamline their production and boost output.

The JAIC has awarded a $100 million contract to Deloitte Consulting to create the Joint Common Foundation, or JCF — basically, a tool to help organize the factory, secure it against intruders, direct its workers, and test its products. 

. “The Joint Common Foundation will provide an AI development environment to test, validate, and field AI capabilities at scale across the Department of Defense,” the Center said in a statement.

Moreover, the JCF is supposed to help meld various existing programming setups and ease the tasks of building tools that can work across multiple service branches.

“What we currently have is a bunch of disparate AI and ML development environments, duplicative and siloed. A lot of these products in these environments are not interoperable,”  said Col. Sang Han, the Center’s infrastructure chief.

The Joint Common Foundation will also catalogue all the data that the Defense Department has that a programmer might need to train an AI system on.

“We currently don’t have a central marketplace. We don’t have a central…repository or catalogue. That’s what we’re going to do so developers can easily search for data, easily search for AI source code, AI and ML [machine learning] models and products in the DoD,” said Han. The goal is to create a place where “developers can easily come in, pick out the part that they need to build their high-performance application.”

The data catalogue is particularly important, which produces more data than a Fortune 500 business and does do in a dizzying array of different formats, from video and voice feeds to images to spreadsheets and text, all classified at different levels. But the Center exists, in part, to make sure that AI innovations that occur in one part of DoD can be used elsewhere (so long as that use is ethically justified). Some of that data is what Don Bitner, strategy chief for the JAIC's Joint Common Foundation and Infrastructure Team, describes as “value-add” data. “We’ve done something to it, we’ve ingested it. We’ve probably paired it down,” Bitner said. 

The JCF allows the Department to take that data and put it into a place where anyone--with approval--can look it up and find it. “Being able to do that type of work and have standardized training sets to at least let components and services start the work of natural language processing in a chat room, elevates a lot of the upfront work in presenting data.” 

They say that will allow the Center to scale up the delivery of new AI tools to services.

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