The Pentagon’s top IT officer said he expects a new Department of Defense center focused on artificial intelligence to be used, in part, for cyber operations and to protect the military’s networks.

Dana Deasy, the department’s chief information officer, said Nov. 5 that he envisions the Joint Artificial Intelligence Center, or JAIC, to partner with U.S. Cyber Command and the Defense Information Systems Agency. Deasy was speaking at DISA’s annual Forecast to Industry day in Linthicum, Maryland.

“AI will serve us incredibly well inside DISA,” he said. “I think it will help us at U.S. Cyber Command. And I think it will help with reform efforts.”

Already, both organizations rely on automation to help weed out massive amounts of spam email and to help guard against cyberattacks.

“AI is moving at a rapid pace. There’s a huge appetite across the department to use it,” Deasy said of artificial intelligence. “But the resources we have right now are limited.”

More than 600 Defense Department programs are expected to touch on artificial intelligence in some fashion and the JAIC has been envisioned to help work with those programs with budgets larger than $15 million. Pentagon documents show the department expects to spend about $1.7 billion on the center in coming years. DoD officials submitted a formal artificial intelligence strategy to Congress last year and, notably, the controversial Project Maven program, which worked with Google to identify objects in drone footage, would fall under the center’s purview.

But since an announcement earlier this summer, the department’s leaders have offered few details about the mechanics of the center or how it would operate.

Deasy, a former CIO at banking giant JPMorgan and energy company BP, is overseeing the effort for now and said the center will focus on what he described as “cross-service solutions.”

“AI will become more than just a tool. I believe AI will be a partner, no doubt, first and foremost, from a lethality standpoint,” he said.

Lethality is one of three primary efforts by Defense Secretary James Mattis to improve the military.

Deasy also said he used a recent conference with the United States’ closest allies to talk with fellow leaders about how AI could help allies “fight better.”

Mike Gruss served as the editor-in-chief of Sightline Media Group's stable of news outlets, which includes Army Times, Air Force Times, C4ISRNET, Defense News, Federal Times, Marine Corps, Military Times and Navy Times.

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