Pentagon teams with GSA on AI Center of Excellence

The Pentagon's Joint Artificial Intelligence Center has partnered with the General Services Administration to accelerate government's AI adoption.

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The Pentagon's Joint Artificial Intelligence Center has partnered with the General Services Administration to accelerate government's AI use with a new Center of Excellence initiative.

"The new GSA-DoD partnership reflects the ongoing success of the Center of Excellence initiative. In alignment with the Administration's strategy for ensuring American leadership in the industries of the future, the AI CoE program will build the capacity to deliver AI solutions throughout the federal government," Chris Liddell, White House deputy chief of staff for policy coordination, said in a statement.

JAIC will rely on expertise from the GSA Technology Transformation Services team, and will look to push military advances in AI technology to the civilian sector.

"We believe that the opportunities for applying AI in government are significant," TTS Director Anil Cheriyan said in a statement, adding that the effort will "build a foundation to reuse our AI expertise to improve citizen experiences across government."

The Centers of Excellence program is a Trump administration technology and management effort to help agencies accelerate modernization and digital transformation with the help of private-sector vendors. The Departments of Agriculture and Housing and Urban Development and the Office of Personnel Management are among the agencies who have tapped the program for support.

News of partnership also solidifies what JAIC head, Lt. Gen. Jack Shanahan has been saying all along. The AI expert told reporters during an Aug. 30 briefing the JAIC was an AI Center of Excellence and would expect "a commensurate level of funding support" in the coming years. JAIC was given $93 million for fiscal 2019 and expects north of $200 million for fiscal 2020.

"We have a center of excellence concept in the JAIC. So part of that center of excellence is a strategic engagement and policy team," Shanahan said Aug. 30. "Within that, our team is spending a lot of time working with Defense Innovation Board, but also just internally and with the services components, on this question about the ethical use of AI, the safe use of AI, the lawful use of artificial intelligence."

Ahead of the announcement, Shanahan has been making the rounds clarifying DOD's AI mission and controversies related to it.

"Part of the problem is that the people developing the technology don't fully understand how it can be used because it's used for civilian purposes -- what about the military side and vice versa," Shanahan said during a panel discussion at the Atlantic Festival Sept. 24.

As part of the effort to explain and contextualize AI and its military applications, the DOD is looking to hire an AI ethicist. Shanahan said knowledge of a technology's strengths and limitations can be low across the military and government at large and repeatedly stressed the Pentagon's desire to use AI ethically and responsibly.

As of now, JAIC has five main priorities -- predictive maintenance for the H60 helicopter, humanitarian assistance and disaster relief, cybersecurity (e.g. event detection, user activity monitoring, and network mapping), information operations, and intelligent business operation -- and hopes to begin pushing out capabilities in 2020.

JAIC's biggest project for fiscal 2020 will be "AI for maneuver and fires," a battlefield application that's designed to process and fuse intelligence to accelerate decision-making in the field, among other things. Maneuver fires will take Project Maven's metadata, fusing it with other intelligence data and overlaying operating and sensor information in a common experience. JAIC will work with operations and command and control issues, curating cause for fire data from Iraq data in hopes of speeding up fire support coordination.

JAIC is also teaming with the Defense Innovation Unit and services on a predictive health project that includes health record analysis, medical imagery classification, post-traumatic stress disorder mitigation and suicide prevention.