AI in the Cards for DOD of the Future

Stephanie Meloni

By Stephanie Meloni, consultant

Across the Department of Defense artificial intelligence and machine learning are gaining real traction. And plans are in the works to establish a center dedicated to delivering AI solutions across the DOD, as well as a proposal for an AI and machine learning council as part of the FY19 National Defense Authorization Act.  DOD agencies are very interested in using AI to combat and overmatch potential adversaries — and there’s no shortage of use cases across the DOD. Going forward, technology companies will want to be aware of differences between customer environments before engaging with a potential customer.

Recently, early adapters gathered at an AFCEA DC luncheon to discuss recent developments and challenges in AI and machine learning. Here are some highlights.

DISA, an example of a non-tactical customer, is looking at how to use machine learning for cyber situational awareness. DISA uses commercial machine learning technologies and contractors for Acropolis and their Big Data Platform to combat cyber threats and attacks. AI can help them shift their cyber strategy from reactive to proactive.

A more research-based organization like DARPA is focused on solving tactical problems that a commercial vendor would struggle to solve due to the uniqueness of the environment. Case in point: The Urban Reconnaissance through Supervised Autonomy project. URSA is one of the agency’s major AI efforts and is looking at how to automate the process of identifying friend or foe in an urban, tactical environment. Most of the capabilities for URSA will need to come internally from the DOD or be custom developed by the defense industry.

Another example that would need both commercial technology and internal capabilities is an Army project that is evaluating how to use AI to control their wireless networks to address the challenges of mobile networking in a tactical environment.

Additional AI opportunities:

  • The Pentagon is planning to invest more heavily in unmanned systems or drones, with a 25 percent increase in funding requested from FY18 to FY19. In addition to traditional machine learning or analytics solutions, drones create opportunities for technology companies that specialize in sensor data integration, configuration management, storage and data protection.
  • Project Maven is another early AI project that Air Force ISR units are using to cut back manual analysis of full-motion video surveillance and is one that the DOD will want to replicate for non-tactical applications.

The DOD, for the most part, is going to need to rely more heavily on contractor and product support as it increases its AI and machine learning portfolio. Technology companies will want to pay attention as the number of AI projects increases. This growing trend will affect the demand and implementation of cloud, infrastructure, cybersecurity and IoT technologies.

Finally, AI puts a tremendous amount of pressure on a customer’s data. Clean, authoritative and trustworthy data is the foundation of all analytics, including AI. This will increase demand for not only data integration tools to ensure that the necessary data is being collected, but also data quality and preparation tools. If a data feed can’t be trusted, it’s potentially putting lives at stake.

The DOD’s mission will complicate AI implementation, but will ultimately create opportunities for technologies to help the DOD modernize. Because this touches all technology categories, vendors will need to partner up to help them figure out how to configure their architecture, collect and analyze data, and ensure security throughout the network, to move forward with AI solutions.

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