Air Force unveils new generative AI platform

NIPRGPT, a ChatGPT-like tool, will allow airmen, guardians and civilian employees to use the technology for tasks like coding and content summarization.

The Department of the Air Force has launched a ChatGPT-like tool that will assist airmen, Guardians and civilian employees with tasks such as coding, correspondence and content summarization, all on the service’s unclassified networks.

The Non-classified Internet Protocol Generative Pre-training Transformer, or NIPRGPT, is part of the Dark Saber software platform, an ecosystem where airmen experiment, develop and deploy their own applications and capabilities.

The platform is not the end tool or the final solution, said Air Force officials, but rather a testing ground that will allow the service to better understand practical applications of generative AI, run experiments, take note of problems and gather feedback.

The Air Force Research Laboratory, which developed the tool, used publicly available AI models, so the service has yet to commit to a particular vendor. But as commercial AI tools become available, the platform will help the service to better gauge the best approach to buying those tools.

“We’re not committing to any single model or tech vendor — it is too early in the process for that. However, we are leveraging this effort to inform future policy, acquisition and investment decisions,” Chandra Donelson, the Air Force’s acting chief data and artificial intelligence officer, told reporters on Monday.

“We aim to partner with the best models from government, industry and academia to identify which models perform better on our specific tasks, domains, as well as use cases to meet the needs of tomorrow’s warfighter.”

While NIPRGPT is only available on unclassified networks, the service is considering expanding it to higher classification levels depending on demand and interest from airmen and guardians.

“The research will absolutely follow demand. We have already had people signal that there’s interest there working with different and appropriate groups. I think that’s why starting intentionally and clearly so we can learn any of those guardrails but, as you can imagine, people want relationships with knowledge at all levels. And so that has absolutely been considered,” said Air Force Research Lab Chief Information Officer Alexis Bonnel.

As uses of generative AI have exploded in the commercial sector, the Defense Department has been carefully exploring how it can leverage the technology to improve intelligence, operational planning, administrative, business processes and tactical operations. The Pentagon’s Task Force Lima, for example, is evaluating a wide range of use cases and working to synchronize and employ generative AI capabilities across the military services.

In the interim, the Air Force’s office of the chief information officer along with the chief data and artificial intelligence office recently wrapped up a series of roundtables with industry and academia where they explored the potential applications and best practices for adopting GenAI across the service. Air Force CIO Venice Goodwine said the roundtables showed how fast the field of generative AI is growing.

“Now is the time to give our airmen and Guardians the flexibility to develop the necessary skills in parallel. There are multiple modernization efforts going on right now across the federal government and within the DAF to get tools in the hands of the workforce. This tool is another one of those efforts,” said Goodwine.

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