Defense Secretary Mark Esper waits to address Congress before a hearing in February 2020.Brendan Smialowski/AFP/Getty For anyone hoping to rein in the military's excesses, this year of unrelenting crisis and outrage should have presented a rare opportunity. In lieu of the usual business of forking over billions to the Defense Department for needless submarines or nuclear weapons, Congress had a chance to craft a spending bill that reckons with the ongoing (and future) threat of pandemics, climate change, and global migration. Instead, the Republican-controlled Senate just doubled down on the type of spending lawmakers from both parties love best. In its markup of the annual defense policy bill, the Senate Armed Services Committee approved a $740.5 billion proposal that includes the purchase of 95 stealth fighter jets, 14 more than the Trump administration requested, to the tune of $9.1 billion. To support the Navy's quixotic goal of assembling 355 battle-ready ships, the Senate committee approved $21.3 billion toward shipbuilding, nearly $1.5 billion more than the Department of Defense requested.
WASHINGTON – The White House has sent lawmakers an urgent $2.5 billion plan to address the deadly outbreak of COVID-19, whose rapid spread and threat to the global economy has rocked financial markets. The White House budget office said the funds were for vaccines, treatments and protective equipment. The request could advance quickly through Congress. It came as fears over the virus were credited with Monday's 1,000-plus point drop in the Dow Jones Industrials and are increasingly seen as a potential political threat to President Donald Trump. The request was released Monday evening, as key government accounts were running low.
In the 1960s, the Department of Defense began shoveling money towards a small group of researchers with a then-fringe idea: making machines intelligent. Military money played a central role in establishing a new science--artificial intelligence. Sixty years later, the Pentagon believes AI has matured enough to become a central plank of America's national security. On Tuesday, the department released an unclassified version of its AI strategy, which calls for rapid adoption of AI in all aspects of the US military. The plan depends on the Pentagon working closely with the tech industry to source the algorithms and cloud computing power needed to run AI projects.
The Pentagon, taking the next big step of deploying artificial intelligence to aid troops and help select battlefield targets, must settle lingering ethical concerns about using the technology for waging war. Search giant Google dealt a blow last year to the military's maiden artificial intelligence, or AI, program sorting drone footage. Thousands of employees protested working on surveillance technology they said eventually could be used to kill. The Pentagon's Joint Artificial Intelligence Center is pushing ahead with a new series of AI projects that will be rolled out to commanders over the coming year with an expected funding boost from Congress. At the same time, a defense board is hammering out ethical guidelines for the cutting-edge technology.
At Google's campus in Mountain View, California, executives are trying to assuage thousands of employees protesting a contract with the Pentagon's flagship artificial-intelligence initiative, Project Maven. Thousands of miles away, algorithms trained under Project Maven--which includes companies other than Google--are helping war fighters identify potential ISIS targets in video from drones. The controversy around Silicon Valley's cooperation with the military may intensify in coming months as Project Maven expands into new areas, including developing tools to more efficiently search captured hard drives. Funding for the project roughly doubled this year, to $131 million. Now the Pentagon is planning a new Joint Artificial Intelligence Center to serve all US military and intelligence agencies that may be modeled on Project Maven.