JUST IN: Northern Command Leads Global Wargame to Test AI Capabilities

By Jon Harper

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A recent virtual exercise involving all of the U.S. military’s combatant commands demonstrated that the Pentagon can and should move faster in adopting artificial intelligence and machine learning technology to improve communication and decision-making, the head of Northern Command told reporters March 31.

The multi-day wargame, named Global Information Dominance Exercise II, was held last week under the leadership of Northcom and was intended to demonstrate the effectiveness of several AI-enabled decision aids. All 11 of the nation’s combatant commands were involved, Northcom Commander Gen. Glen VanHerck said during a Defense Writers Group event. VanHerck also serves as commander of North American Aerospace Defense Command, better known as NORAD.

“It's a global scenario about a competitor or a potential adversary … that actually had another peer competitor try to take advantage" of a simulated crisis, he said. “That would provide us a scenario that would challenge us from a global perspective and all-domain perspective.”

Although VanHerck did not name the two enemies in the wargame scenario, China and Russia are the only nations that the Pentagon considers peer competitors.

“What we were looking to do is show the incredible value of information and how information can be used today, especially if we … share that data from all domains ... and share it through machine learning [and] artificial intelligence as well to make this data and information more readily available in a timely manner to produce decision space for decision-makers,” he said. 

Warfighting domains from which information can be gleaned and shared include air, sea, land, space and cyberspace.

The capabilities tested during the exercise fit in with the Pentagon’s combined joint all-domain command-and-control, or JADC2, concept which aims to link the military’s sensors and shooters more effectively.

VanHerck said the technology could also be utilized at the strategic level by the secretary of defense or the president as they make policy decisions during crises.

The Northcom chief said one reason for holding the exercise was to highlight the need for the Pentagon to adopt these types of technologies faster.

“I did it with the intent to bring all the combatant commands together, to place a demand signal quite frankly, on the department to move quicker down the path of domain awareness, information dominance and decision superiority,” he said. “We need to go faster.”

The exercise tested out three AI-enabled decision aids. One, called Cosmos, allows global collaboration amongst the combatant commands with real-time or near real-time information, VanHerck said. When asked, he did not immediately provide information about the other two.
The exercise was deemed a success.

“All 11 commands endorsed every capability that we looked at, and many asked … ‘Why are we waiting? Why don't we field these right now and kind of build the bicycle as you ride it?’” VanHerck said. “That's a fundamental change in the way the department does business, but frankly, that was one of my goals is to demonstrate that we have capability today and that we can utilize different processes to field much quicker.”

Topics: Robotics and Autonomous Systems, Robotics, Infotech, Cyber

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