JAIC readies ‘AI champions’ as commission recommends doubling R&D spending

For the United States to stay on top of the global arms race for artificial intelligence, a commission stood up by Congress recommended a two-fold path: Collaborate with its closest allies, and double the amount of research spending proposed by the Trump administration.

The administration proposed doubling spending on non-defense AI research and development, and development by 2022 in its latest budget request.

But former Deputy Defense Secretary Robert Work, co-chair of the National Security Commission on Artificial Intelligence, said the U.S. should set its sights on doubling AI spending by 2021, and then doubling that spending again by 2022, “until we have the right level of spending to maintain our lead in R&D.”

“We believe that we are probably in the lead in global R&D but we’re being pressed very hard by a number of competitors, and we need to increase our spending,” Work said Wednesday in a conference call with reporters.

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That’s one of the leading proposals the commission issued in its first quarterly recommendations. The commission is set to run through spring 2021.

The first round of recommendations, former Google CEO Eric Schmidt noted, coincides with the beginning of congressional deliberations for the annual defense spending bill, as well for the civilian government’s fiscal 2021 budget.

“We don’t have the force of law, but we have a lot of reasons to think that people will follow them or at least come very close to our recommendations,” Schmidt said.

Read more: Technology News

The report also recommends greater information-sharing and technological cooperation with allies such as Australia, Canada, New Zealand, the United Kingdom.

“The key thing is to marshal all of the free nations of the world who have a common goal of including the rule of law at the core of AI, and that AI must reflect values that protect our citizens,” Work said.

The recommendations make no mention of AI’s ability to help combat the coronavirus pandemic, but Schmidt said the commission would focus on that in its next wave of recommendations.

“Virtually all of the interesting medical approaches that I’m familiar with are using AI techniques to look at, essentially, the targets of the virus,” Schmidt said.

The recommendations, Work said also recognize that workforce talent “remains the most important driver of progress in all facets of AI.”

“There’s a large number of parts of the government that do training of one kind or another. We want them to all get engaged in this,” Schmidt said.

JAIC stands up ‘Responsible AI Champions’ pilot

To build cross-collaboration on AI across the workforce, the Defense Department’s Joint AI Center has stood up a Responsible AI Champions pilot that will train its personnel from a wide swath of disciplines – from design and development, to the acquisition, to evaluation and verification – on the ethical use of AI.

The pilot comes more than a month after Defense Secretary Mark Esper adopted  AI principles that the Defense Innovation Board recommended last October.

Individuals in the first cohort will receive training in AI and the DoD AI ethical principles with a focus on the application of the principles in the field throughout the AI product lifecycle.

“The intent is for these individuals to return to their respective work areas and champion implementation practices and processes that embody the DoD principles,” the JAIC wrote in a blog post Wednesday.

Champions who complete the pilot will also serve as the JAIC’s “eyes and ears on the ground” to identify new opportunities to implement AI in their workflows, as well as flag AI implementation concerns.

“As the Champions advise, educate, and inform their immediate team members, it will create muscle memory for all team members to initiate and engage in a broader dialogue around the principles and the technology,” the JAIC wrote.

Read more: Artificial Intelligence News

DoD last month also stood up a department-wide Responsible AI Subcommittee that includes members from each of the military services as well as members of the Joint Staff, and the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency.

Additional staff include personnel from the Office of the Secretary of Defense, the Office of the General Counsel and personnel in research and engineering, testing and evaluation, and acquisition and sustainment.

The group will take the next steps in fleshing out DoD’s AI policy and lay out an “ethical and legal framework mapping the DoD AI Principles to the AI product lifecycle and acquisition process,” while taking risk analysis and governance into consideration.