Insight by LMI

For Defense, continuous modernization requires data, algorithms, and new business approaches

Speed of decision-making will be an increasingly important capability for Defense Department planners. Modern weapons systems in the hands of new and morphing adversaries have reduced, in effect, the protective distances the United States has traditionally enjoyed.

That means U.S. leaders need platforms – from autonomous ground vehicles to missiles – that can react quickly, change course, and interact in real time with one another, communicating across fast, interoperable data networks.

According to Josh Wilson, the senior vice president of service lines and technology at LMI, those capabilities will, in turn, require the insertion of artificial intelligence and machine learning into their basic functionality. And it will require mid-level and senior leaders to have what he called a “much higher digital IQ, to be able to ask smart questions and drive resource priorities in an effective way.”

For the technology to succeed in modernization, agencies must deploy it in a solid framework of change management and some new thinking, Wilson said.

A challenge to effective deployment of AI and ML is the generation of data in sufficient quantity and quality to train algorithms, Wilson said. He cited the development of self-driving cars as an analogy. Just to enable a car to go safely from point A to point B requires data from hundreds of vehicles each driving hundreds of miles over an infrastructure with a sunk investment of trillions.

The basic cost of warehousing large quantities of data is minimal. Yet it can be costly to acquire and deploy. Managing it and organizing around using it can effectively change the lifecycle costs and doctrinal thinking about the systems to which it is applied, Wilson said. He noted work with the Army’s Program Executive Office for Enterprise Information Systems on the Army Data and Analytics Platforms contract. Wilson said LMI is helping the Army with data governance, standards, and management in the logistics management domain.

At the DOD’s Joint Artificial Intelligence Center, LMI is doing similar work, including creating a common ontology for data related to cost elements of transport platforms. Such groundwork enables application of AI to lifecycle costing and predictive maintenance, Wilson said.

Ultimately, for AI to drive digital modernization, Defense agencies will also need to rethink business processes and their approaches to change management and the very jobs people perform.

“It’s not about making their job necessarily more efficient. It’s about transforming it completely, where some jobs go away, and some jobs come on,” Wilson said, adding that accounting for the insecurity this might engender in the workforce is also key to successful modernization.

Check out the video for more of Wilson’s thoughts on AI/ML, data, change management, and digital modernization.

Continuous Modernization

These machine learning and AI algorithms [are] only as good as the data we train them against. That data sometimes can be super expensive to create. If you see this future state where all these AI- and ML-enabled platforms exist, then are we really considering the cost associated with that?

Culture Change at the JAIC

What we're talking about here is not existing processes. It is literally transforming how we do business. That's what these innovations and technologies allow us to do.

Listen to the full show:

Featured speakers

  • Josh Wilson

    Senior Vice President, Service Lines and Technology, LMI

  • Tom Temin

    Host, The Federal Drive, Federal News Network

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