U.S. Military to Use AI to Empower not Replace Warriors

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By The Maritime Executive 02-12-2019 06:19:18

The U.S. Department of Defense (DOD) has released a summary of its strategy on artificial intelligence (AI): Harnessing AI to Advance Our Security and Prosperity. The DOD says AI is poised to change the character of the future battlefield and the pace of threats faced in today's security environment. However, the DOD states: “The women and men in the U.S. armed forces remain our enduring source of strength; we will use AI-enabled information, tools, and systems to empower, not replace, those who serve.”

The Strategy states that other nations, particularly China and Russia, are making significant investments in AI for military purposes, including in applications that raise questions regarding international norms and human rights. “These investments threaten to erode our technological and operational advantages and destabilize the free and open international order. The United States, together with its allies and partners, must adopt AI to maintain its strategic position, prevail on future battlefields, and safeguard this order. We will also seek to develop and use AI technologies in ways that advance security, peace, and stability in the long run.”

The department's strategic approach to AI emphasizes its rapid, iterative, and responsible delivery and then the use of lessons learned to create repeatable and scalable processes and systems that will improve functions and missions across the department.

Examples include:

• Improving situational awareness and decision-making. AI applied to perception tasks such as imagery analysis can extract useful information from raw data and equip leaders with increased situational awareness. 

• Increasing safety of operating equipment. AI has the potential to enhance the safety of operating aircraft, ships and vehicles in complex, rapidly changing situations by alerting operators to hidden dangers.

• Implementing predictive maintenance and supply. AI will be used to predict the failure of critical parts, automate diagnostics and plan maintenance based on data and equipment condition. Similar technology will be used to guide provisioning of spare parts and optimize inventory levels. 

• Streamlining business processes. AI will be used with the objective of reducing the time spent on highly manual, repetitive and frequent tasks. 

The DOD will continue to undertake research and adopt policies as necessary to ensure that AI systems are used responsibly and ethically. One example of existing guidance is DOD Directive 3000.09, issued in 2012, which establishes guidelines to minimize the probability and consequences of failure in autonomous and semi-autonomous weapon systems that could lead to unintended engagements. The Directive requires that such systems be designed to allow commanders and operators to exercise appropriate levels of human judgment over the use of force. The Directive also requires realistic and rigorous testing and clear human-machine interface, as well as appropriate training for commanders and operators, so that those weapons function as anticipated in realistic operational environments against adaptive adversaries.

The DOD will continue funding research and development for “explainable AI” so users can understand the basis of AI outputs and therefore understand, appropriately trust and effectively manage AI systems.

The DOD plans to engage with the open source community by contributing data, challenges, research, and technologies as a vehicle for attracting talent and identifying and advancing new AI technologies.

The focal point of DOD AI is the Joint Artificial Intelligence Center, established last June under DOD Chief Information Officer Dana Deasy and led by Lt. Gen. John "Jack" Shanahan, to provide a common vision, mission and focus to drive department-wide AI capability delivery.  

DOD's AI strategy supports the National Defense Strategy and is part of DOD's overall efforts to modernize information technology to support the warfighter, defend against cyber attacks and leverage emerging technologies. 

A summary of the Strategy is available here.