Former Deputy Secretary of Defense Bob Work, the architect behind the Department of Defense’s Third Offset strategy, predicted the Pentagon could soon establish an Artificial Intelligence Center of Excellence.

Work, speaking on the Center for a New American Security’s Brussel Sprouts podcast on Jan. 9, explained that while the acquisition hierarchy within the Pentagon is changing, thinking within the department regarding the Third Offset remains consistent with his original vision.

The Third Offset was a plan, led by Work, to address the erosion of the U.S. military’s technological superiority and focused on technologies such as artificial intelligence, cloud computing and data analytics.

“You are going to see the strategic capabilities office continue, DIUx continue … I believe we are going to see an AI Center of Excellence, or something like that,” Work said.

Such a center would help the department cement relationships with research universities, laboratories, and the commercial sector that are driving technological innovation in AI.

According to Work, “the DOD already has over 100 different relationships with universities, there are University Affiliated Research Centers, like Johns Hopkins applied physics lab and Lincoln Labs.”

By tapping into these talent sources, Work said he hopes the United States will be able to be a leader in AI innovation and autonomous technology. The former deputy secretary warned his successors that, “if you cannot tap into [those sources], then there is no way you’re going to be the fast leader you need to be in this very competitive environment. There are going to be lots of fast followers because this stuff is going to be available to anybody because it is primarily commercial so you want to be the fast leader and have people responding to you rather than reacting to them.”

Work has previously explained his vision for AI and autonomous technology as being more like Iron Man than the Terminator, but also discussed innovative ways AI can be used to strengthen the NATO alliance.

Because AI and other methods of algorithmic warfare are much less expensive than conventional weapon systems, “even the smallest country can add a lot of value to [a potential] NATO operational fires network because [they] have this algorithm that will make the communications go faster and will change automatically security levels and change automatically English to French and French to German. So I think it’s an extremely alliance friendly offset strategy and hopefully we’ll start talking and seeing some real meat on the bones in NATO.”

Daniel Cebul is an editorial fellow and general assignments writer for Defense News, C4ISRNET, Fifth Domain and Federal Times.

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