NEWS FROM SOFIC: SOCOM to Develop New AI Strategy

By Connie Lee

Image: iStock

TAMPA, Fla. — Special Operations Command plans to craft a new artificial intelligence and machine learning strategy to inform its future spending, according to the organization's chief data officer.

David Spirk Jr. said the blueprint will help SOCOM determine asset allocation for AI as it builds its program objective memorandum for fiscal years 2022 to 2026.

“We're going to start the crafting of a real roadmap,” he said May 23 at the Special Operations Forces Industry Conference in Tampa, Florida, which is sponsored by the National Defense Industrial Association. “This will help the command … talk about the investments we need to make and the resources that we're going to need.”

All of the SOF components will gather at a symposium in September to begin developing the new strategy, he noted. Spirk told National Defense that the gathering will be limited to the military, which will first establish its goals for investing in AI and machine learning before reaching out to academia and industry for input.

“We're not bringing industry and academia in there yet,” he said. “What we're going to do is we're going to establish our requirements, we're going to set what that roadmap is, and then we'll probably have a follow-on [event] where you can talk to everybody about what our conclusions were and the direction that we're going.”

SOCOM has not decided if the entire report will be publicly releasable, he added.

The “crux” of the roadmap will be based on a “three-six-five” strategy that has three lines of effort, six focus areas and five collective outcomes, Spirk said.

The lines of effort include having an AI-ready workforce, AI applications and AI outreach, according to his presentation slides.

SOCOM needs to have personnel that are focused on artificial intelligence and machine learning initiatives, he noted. The command must show that there is a financial benefit to working in these fields, he said, “and let the nerds get promoted.”

“The modern AI-ML workforce is really where I worry about the delivery and sustainment of some of these initiatives,” Spirk said. “We need to talk about how do we make this a career opportunity to continue developing what really amounts to ... almost a language-type skill," he added.

The six focus areas of the strategy will be: perception and action; planning and maneuver; communication resilience and cyber protection; recruiting, training and talent management; predictive maintenance, logistics, planning and forecasting; and vendor contract and budget management, according to his presentation slides.

Spirk said technologies within the focus areas could potentially be combined into an algorithmic warfare cross-functional team similar to the one executing Project Maven, a Defense Department initiative focused on using AI and machine learning to sift through drone video footage and identify items of interest to warfighters.

Technologies that SOCOM is eyeing include "artificial reality," intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance capabilities, and identity management, according to his presentation slides.

“You can see how we're beginning to fuse those technologies, fuse those data sets to build smart systems that are capable of improving our operators’ capability to execute successful operations at a rate of precision and speed that has never been accomplished before,” Spirk said.

The collective outcomes that the strategy aims to achieve are: established cloud-empowered data and services; ubiquitous use of agile practices in unclassified and classified software development environments; normalized acceleration of procurement; a recognized talent acquisition, development and coaching pipeline; and a codified transition plan to a sustained digitally-enabled future, according to his presentation slides.

Topics: Cyber, Infotech, Special Operations, Special Operations-Low Intensity Conflict

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