JAIC entering new phase of life, will create teams to help DoD adopt AI

The Joint Artificial Intelligence Center will balance its investments between innovation and helping DoD adopt AI.

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The Defense Department’s Joint Artificial Intelligence Center is entering a new phase of its life, which will push the Pentagon even more to adopt the game changing technology.

JAIC Director Marine Corps Lt. Gen. Michael Groen announced JAIC 2.0 this week, an initiative he says will accelerate the adoption of AI across every aspect of the military’s warfighting and business operations.

“We ‘re recrafting our engagement mechanism inside the JAIC to actively seek out problems and help make others successful,” he said Tuesday at the Pentagon. “We will be more ‘problem-pull’ than ‘product-push.’”

JAIC is creating “flyaway teams” that will work with different components of DoD.

“They will assist a potential AI consumer and help them understand their data environment, help them understand what kind of things that they’re going to have to do to create an environment that can support an artificial intelligence set of solutions,” Groen said.

The new mission set is in contrast to the JAIC’s introductory goal, which was to jumpstart AI in DoD through pathfinder projects.

“Over the last year, year and a half, we’ve been in that business,” Groen said. “We developed over 30 AI products working across a range of department use cases. We learned a great deal and brought on board some of the brightest talent in the business. It really is amazing. When we took stock, however, we realized that this was not transformational enough. We weren’t going to be in a position to transform the department through the delivery of use cases.”

A large part of the transformation will come in the form of the Joint Common Foundation, which JAIC hopes to have at initial operating capability in early 2021.

DoD inked a $106 million contract in August to build the system.

“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 when the contract was announced. “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.”

Groen said the foundation will provide a technical basis, especially for disadvantaged users who don’t have access to data scientists, algorithms or who are not sure how to leverage their data.

“They might be able to leverage training data from some other program,” he said. “We might be able to identify algorithms that can be repurposed and reused, in similar problem sets.”

Groen said as part of JAIC 2.0, the organization wants to find the most compelling cases of using AI, and then implement them to their broadest applications.

“There’s a balance here that we’re trying to achieve,” he said. “On the one hand, we’re working some very cutting-edge AI technologies with consumers —  and some pretty mature consumers — who are working at the same level we are and in partnership. On the other side of the coin, we have partnerships with really important enterprises and organizations who haven’t even really started their journey into AI.”

JAIC wants to make sure it has the right investment ratio to be innovative, but also to help consumers with their first forays into AI.

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