Intel/GEOINT

A new council could advance artificial intelligence for the military

The Pentagon’s much anticipated council addressing artificial intelligence is outlined in an early draft of the 2019 National Defense Authorization Act released April 25 by the House Armed Services Committee.

The Artificial Intelligence and Machine Learning Policy and Oversight Council would “develop and continuously improve research, innovation, policy, joint processes and procedures” to facilitate the advancement of artificial intelligence and machine learning within the Department of Defense.

The council would also be tasked with integrating artificial intelligence and machine learning throughout the Defense Department and ensuring the efficient and effective use of their capabilities.

The legislation does not describe those capabilities, but it does offer a definition of artificial intelligence that that may be insightful. According to the draft, artificial intelligence is any system with the ability to “act rationally” and “performs tasks under varying and unpredictable circumstances without significant human oversight, or that can learn from experience and improve performance when exposed to data sets.”

The Artificial Intelligence and Machine Learning Policy and Oversight Council would be headed by the under secretary of defense for research and engineering, a position currently held by Michael Griffin. The under secretary would also have the option to designate a different individual as the council’s leader.

The council would feature the head of each military service, the director of the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency, and the under secretary of defense for acquisition and sustainment, among other high-ranking Pentagon officials. Additionally, the under secretary of defense for research and engineering would be granted the power to appoint to the council “any other official of the Department of Defense determined to be appropriate.”

The legislation comes as U.S. officials are increasingly worried about China making a major government-led push on AI, and it lines up with calls from the military AI space for America to launch an all-of-government approach to the problem. Former Deputy Defense Secretary Bob Work has said the time is right for a national push, which should include what he called a “national AI agency.”

The draft of the FY19 National Defense Authorization Act is set to be marked up April 26 by the House Armed Services Subcommittee on Emerging Threats and Capabilities chaired by Rep. Elise Stefanik, R-N.Y., who introduced legislation to establish an AI council in March.

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