ROBOTICS AND AUTONOMOUS SYSTEMS

Joint AI Center Pivots to New Missions

8/17/2020
By Yasmin Tadjdeh

iStock illustration

The Joint Artificial Intelligence Center — which is tasked with coalescing AI efforts across the Pentagon — is pivoting to new mission sets, the acting director of the center recently said.

The organization, which was stood up in 2018, is taking lessons learned from its progress so far and is refining its business model and plans, said Nand Mulchandani. It currently has six mission initiatives underway including joint warfighting operations, warfighter health, business process transformation, threat reduction and protection, joint logistics and joint information warfare.

The center spent much of its early days working on ways to utilize artificial intelligence to better predict when equipment, such as helicopters, will need maintenance, Mulchandani said during his first Pentagon briefing with reporters as acting head of the organization. Mulchandani replaced Lt. Gen. N.T. “Jack” Shanahan, the inaugural head of the center, who retired from the Air Force.

However, there is now a “pivot from predictive maintenance and others to joint warfighting,” he said. That is “the flagship product that we’re sort of thinking about and talking about.”

The joint warfighting mission initiative is focused on the priorities laid out in the 2018 National Defense Strategy and has a goal of preserving the United States’ military and technological advantages over its strategic competitors, he said.

In May, the center awarded the joint warfighting operations initiative’s prime contract to Booz Allen Hamilton. The contract has an $806 million ceiling.

“The list of companies supporting the JAIC and the joint warfighting operations mission initiatives now includes not only many of America’s largest and most recognizable technology companies but also a host of innovative, smaller defense technology startups, as well,” he said.

However, the center would likely not spend all of the $806 million because the entire budget of the JAIC over a couple of years is around $800 million, Mulchandani said.

Under the initiative, the JAIC — working in collaboration with the Marine Corps Warfighting Laboratory and the Army’s program executive office for command, control and communications — is developing a fire support cognitive assistant that will help commanders triage incoming communications and support joint all-domain command-and-control, he said.

Working in denied, degraded and electronically jammed environments will be a key piece of the effort, he said.

The JAIC is funneling more funding into the program. Spending on joint warfighting operations in fiscal year 2020 is greater than the combined spending of all of the center’s other mission initiatives, Mulchandani added.

That underscores “the importance of this new initiative for us,” he said.

Topics: Robotics and Autonomous Systems

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