Pentagon unveils AI strategy to compete with Russia, China

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The Pentagon is shown in this Dec. 5, 2017, file photo.

The Pentagon on Tuesday unveiled a new artificial intelligence strategy aimed at keeping pace and competing with Russian and Chinese technological advancements.

“Other nations, particularly China and Russia, are making significant investments in AI for military purposes,” according to the strategy, titled “Harnessing AI to Advance Our Security and Prosperity.

“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.”

{mosads}The strategy outlines how the Department of Defense (DoD) will develop and use AI – machines performing tasks usually done by humans — “in ways that advance security, peace, and stability in the long run.”

The Joint Artificial Intelligence Center (JAIC) will lead and coordinate AI pilot projects within DoD, including for operations, training, sustainment, force protection, recruitment, healthcare and defense against cyberattacks.

The document and an adjoining Pentagon statement did not include a dollar amount associated with the strategy.

JAIC Director Lt. Gen. Jack Shanahan, told reporters Tuesday that the AI budget for the Pentagon for the current fiscal year is $90 million. He said there will be a request for more AI dollars in the administration’s upcoming fiscal year 2020 budget request.

Ahead of the strategy’s release, Senate Armed Services Committee Chairman James Inhofe (R-Okla.) told reporters that more money for AI is not his top priority, explaining that “there are other things that need to be done first.”

“We know that China is ahead of us, but I’d like to look at other areas where China and where Russia are ahead of us. And it would be in artillery, for example,” Inhofe told the Defense Writers Group on Tuesday morning.

President Trump on Monday signed an executive order laying out a national plan to increase the use of AI technology, directing all federal agencies to look into launching and expanding AI initiatives that promote their missions.

The order directs federal agencies to prioritize and set aside funding for AI programs, while opening up the way for researchers and developers to access more government data.

“Continued American leadership in Artificial Intelligence is of paramount importance to maintaining the economic and national security of the United States,” Trump said in a statement, accompanying the order.

It follows the Pentagon’s promise last year to spend up to $2 billion over the next five years in AI-based systems and software.

The Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA) the Defense Department’s research arm, pledged in September that it would make the investment – the Pentagon’s largest to date in AI.

Shanahan said that the new Pentagon strategy will use commercial industry to more quickly harness AI for the military.

“We know that the department has to build a lot more expertise over the next decade of people that have the … skills that we are looking for. Absent that sort of foundational level of expertise, commercial solutions are available for most of the problems that we’ve discovered in the past and we know we’ll discover in the future,” Shanahan said. 

Among the upcoming areas, one focus is using drones to help fight wildfires. The Pentagon would use images or video captured by drones to better predict where flames might spread.

But don’t expect any AI weapons systems to come out of the effort.

“We’re not looking at autonomous weapons systems right now,” Shanahan said.

Updated at 7:13 p.m.

Tags Donald Trump James Inhofe

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