Artificial Intelligence

Congress wants an inventory of all AI projects at the Pentagon

WASHINGTON — The Pentagon’s top artificial intelligence office must create an inventory of all ongoing AI activities across the department and services, under a new spending bill expected to pass.

The director of the Joint Artificial Intelligence Center has four months to deliver a report to Congress that details each artificial intelligence activity to give lawmakers a clearer sense of how money is spent on the projects. The requirement is one piece of a huge spending bill with pandemic relief that lawmakers are rushing to approve and President Trump is expected to sign.

“The agreement is concerned ... about a lack of coordination among the myriad of artificial intelligence programs within the department and the military services,” lawmakers wrote in their notes on the proposal.

The inventory that the JAIC delivers to Congress must include “each program’s appropriation, project and line number; the current and future years defense program funding; the identification of academic or industry mission partners, if applicable; and any planned transition partners.”

The JAIC is tasked with accelerating the adoption of artificial intelligence across the Department of Defense. Lawmakers increased the JAIC’s operations funding $5 million to account for new commercial geospatial analytics efforts, bringing its total operations funding up to $137 million.

The inventory mandate follows a July 1 report from the department’s inspector general that found that the JAIC needed better processes in place to track AI projects across the department.

“An AI inventory management process for identifying and developing a baseline of AI projects is necessary to maintain awareness of the types and number of AI projects across the DoD,” the inspector general wrote.

At the time, the department’s chief information officer, who oversees the JAIC, told the inspector general that the office required services to report AI projects through a budget process. Creating an inventory of all ongoing artificial intelligence projects is no small feat with disparate efforts across each service and their respective research labs.

The JAIC wants to become the central AI repository for the Defense Department, providing services and combatant commands with software tools and platforms to develop artificial intelligence tools. The organization plans to do that through its Joint Common Foundation, a platform that will be available early next year.

The JAIC will also increase its work with Pentagon components in 2021 by offering services ranging from AI readiness assessments to assistance with more complex capabilities as part of the office’s shift to “JAIC 2.0,″ an organizational realignment announced earlier this year to better meet the needs of the war-fighting community.

“We think that our transformational value will be much better in the enablement space,” Lt. Gen. Michael Groen, JAIC director, said in November. “We obviously will continue to do products, we’ll continue to work on some of the high-end, game-changing technologies and programs. But we really want to start a tide that rises all boats across the department.”

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