"The JAIC is working to bring critical AI detection technology to the first responders who bravely battle wildfires. Increased use of AI will reduce response timelines, increase situational awareness, and save more American lives." On July 16, our new Secretary of Defense, Mark Esper, was asked by Congress what the No. 1 priority for DOD technology modernization ought to be. I think artificial intelligence will likely change the character of warfare, and I believe whoever masters it first will dominate on the battlefield for many, many, many years. We have to get there first."
In developing artificial intelligence for use on the battlefield and throughout the defense enterprise, the U.S. military is challenging China and other adversaries to a multigenerational contest. At stake is nothing less than global dominance in the fast-arriving digital future. "We are in a contest for the character of the international order in the digital age," Air Force Lt. Gen. Jack Shanahan, director of the Pentagon's new Joint Artificial Intelligence Center, told reporters at a recent briefing. "Our potential adversaries are moving very deliberately towards a future of artificial intelligence." To get an edge on the competition, the U.S. military plans to "democratize" access to AI development tools across the Defense Department, through a collaborative, cloud-based platform called the Joint Common Foundation.
My career in wargaming began by chance, not by design. Initially hired for my writing on national security and my Marine Corps background, I learned to be a wargamer on the job. With no prior wargaming experience, I was taught to combine my storytelling ability, my knowledge of the military, and my personal experience with commercial board games to develop analytical wargames. Surprisingly, my unexpected introduction to the field is not an aberration, but the norm. Across the defense community, wargaming is cultivating innovation and guiding important discussions.
The Defense Department's artificial intelligence center is expecting a transformative year in 2020 with more than double its budget from 2019 and new projects that further ingrain AI into military operations. DoD's Joint Artificial Intelligence Center (JAIC) will embark on a new project next year called AI for maneuver and fires. "The project will focus on individual lines of effort or product lines oriented on warfighting operations like operations/intelligence fusion, joint all-domain command and control, accelerated sensor to shooter timelines, autonomous and swarming systems, target development and operations center workflows," Lt. Gen. Jack Shanahan, JAIC director, said at the Pentagon Friday. That all sounds like a lot of buzzwords, but a real-life example can be found right in your home. Often times you'll open up Netflix and it will say a show is a 95% match for you based on your past watching habits.
Editor's Note: This article was submitted in response to the call for ideas issued by the co-chairs of the National Security Commission on Artificial Intelligence, Eric Schmidt and Robert Work. It addresses the second part of the second question on AI expertise and skill sets for the national security workforce. The race to harness artificial intelligence for military dominance is on -- and China might win. Whoever wins the AI race will secure critical technological advantages that allow them to shape global politics. The United States brings considerable strengths -- an unparalleled university system, a culture of innovation, and the only military that bestrides the globe -- to this contest.