WASHINGTON – The U.S. and its allies are leveraging a new forum launched by the Pentagon’s top Artificial Intelligence Bureau to work towards developing AI systems that can connect in the future to better fight each other.
The Defense Partnership, launched by the Joint Artificial Intelligence Center last September, lays the groundwork for future AI-enabled joint warfare capabilities that must be linked together so that the U.S. and its allies can fight effectively as a coalition.
One day, countries could work together on other AI-backed actions, such as sharing data from sensors tracking the running of machines to predict when maintenance is needed before parts fail, possibly during a mission where time is out for repairs or replacements is lost. Or the allies could use AI for data on shipping and delivery movements to improve logistics efficiency.
The ultimate goal is that the allied nations are ready to work together smoothly on AI-driven projects in the future.
But first, the US and partner countries must begin basic data preparation for artificial intelligence and view the information as a resource for warfare. That starts with storing and storing all the facts and figures that AI needs to function.
The US and its allies “have screwed up not using data or viewing data as a resource for the past few decades,” said Stephanie Culberson, director of international AI policy at JAIC. “If we went to war again in Afghanistan, for example, would we have all the data we drew over the past 20 years? You can probably guess the answer to that. “
The partnership grew out of smaller discussions the JAIC had with like-minded nations. After multiple interactions, it became clear that nations were facing the same challenges when it came to scaling up AI efforts, educating and training the workforce on AI, and transcending internal cultures resistant to technological change, said Culberson.
“We were beginning to realize that many of us are facing the same difficult problems implementing AI in our defense organizations,” said Culberson. “Instead of staying alone in these silos, I thought, ‘Why don’t we pull together some of the strongest nations that are really focused in their defense sector and do so together? “
To date, the partnership includes defense representatives from Australia, Canada, Denmark, Estonia, Finland, France, Israel, Japan, Norway, the Republic of Korea, Sweden and the United Kingdom. The group has met twice to identify common challenges and meetings are expected three times a year.
The Defense Partnership does not work on joint development of AI systems, but rather focuses on preparing Allied military to be “AI-enabled,” as Culberson puts it.
“We decided to talk about building blocks that we all need to work through. These are massive endeavors for defense departments,” said Culberson. “For example, how do we pass on data? Not very well for the most part. “
The meetings are different from typical international conversations with foreign military personnel, which can be rigid, Culberson said. The partnership meetings encourage open dialogue, including roundtables and TED talk-style presentations describing how government departments are addressing challenges and analyzing case studies for the lessons learned.
Over the next two years of partnership, Culberson said she “really wants a solid foundation” for AI readiness and devised a way to assess whether members have achieved that readiness. In a few years’ time, countries could consider developing a data aggregation function together.
“That’s how we do interoperability,” said Culberson. “We don’t want to go too far with everyone doing their own thing … in their silos, and then we look up and next time we have to go to war together or even humanitarian aid or that kind of war things that we do our militaries could work together, nothing is interoperable. “
The role of the JAIC at international level
Since its inception about two years ago, the JAIC’s mission has been to support the internal components of the Pentagon through its national mission initiatives or by providing services in the adoption of artificial intelligence. Adding international exposure to his portfolio also serves that mission.
“I see that there is exactly the same thing for the International: empowering key allies and partners, which will ultimately result in our war fighter being ready to have allied allies by their side,” said Culberson.
The US military services seek to involve allies and partners in developing their joint war combat systems, such as the Air Force’s Advanced Battle Management System or the Army’s Project Convergence.
With these service-controlled programs, which are heavily based on artificial intelligence, the services are intended to connect sensors and shooters for future battles. Working with allies eases the challenges that arise later.
“In this broader strategic US-China competition that is evolving, the Department of Defense will need these avenues for partnership,” said Megan Lamberth, research fellow at the Center for a New American Security. “It enables improved interoperability between partner militaries and gives countries access to broader, more robust shared data sets.”
The partnership could lead to talent exchange programs that would benefit the Pentagon, Lamberth added, especially given the labor shortage of AI professionals.
The Defense Partnership has an “open door” to adding more allies, Culberson said. While other nations have expressed interest, members plan to set admission standards before expanding.
“I don’t want it to be just the US projection, which is what I often expect when we have multilateral talks like this,” said Culberson. “Instead, I want it to really be a forum where like-minded allies can come together and share and learn.”