DoD enters into $106 million contract for AI environment

DoD will be able to test new AI technologies in an isolated area.

The Defense Department is beginning work on a self-contained environment where coders can test and validate artificial intelligence to be used by the military as a whole.

The Defense Information Systems Agency, along with the Joint Artificial Intelligence Center (JAIC), awarded a $106 million contract Wednesday to build the Joint Common Foundation Artificial Intelligence (JCF).

“JCF will provide an AI development environment to test, validate, and field AI capabilities at scale across the Department of Defense,” said JAIC spokesman Navy Lt. Cmdr. Arlo Abrahamson in a statement. “The impact of the JCF will come from enterprise‐wide access to AI tools and data for AI developers across the department and its partners that will help synchronize AI projects, reduce development redundancy, and enable the broad deployment of AI-enabled solutions to the tactical edge where front line operators can benefit from these capabilities.”

The contract went to Deloitte Consulting in a systems engineering, technology and innovation prime integrator task order. The performance period will start on Aug. 17 and last for one year. From there DoD has the option to award follow-on work each year for the next three years at $31 million each.

As the prime vendor, Deloitte will operate as the lead integrator of all contract activities to provide, operate, maintain, secure and enhance JCF.

According to the JAIC website, JCF will reduce technical barriers to DoD-wide adoption of AI by providing a test bed for technology. It will also accelerate security assessments of AI produces, encourage efficiencies and mitigate risk by providing a cyber-hardened environment.

“We are designing the JCF to ingest data that is secure, normalized, categorized, and stored for maximum reuse and sharing,” Denise Hodge, information systems security manager at JAIC, said in March. “We are also pursuing strategic partnerships to capitalize on the great work that has already taken place across the U.S. military as well as the advances made by our industry and academic partners. Cybersecurity is the thread that binds the enterprise cloud together.”

JAIC is still coming into its own as an organization that is trying to make AI permeate throughout the department.

The DoD Inspector General, the RAND Corporation and the National Security Commission on AI all had critiques for the organization in the recent past.

JAIC acting Director Nand Mulchandani dismissed concerns earlier this summer, however.

“Things are moving so fast,” Mulchandani told reporters at the Pentagon on Wednesday. “A lot of the reports focused on the early days of the JAIC — standing it up, what the issues are essentially for AI across the DoD. Ironically, it turns out that most or all of the issues were already addressed by the time the report came out. Even while the report was being written we had addressed a couple of those issues. We welcome the report, but things are moving so fast, and JAIC is changing so fast, that many of them are no longer relevant.”

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