The Department of Defense plans to spend $1.75 billion over six years on a new Joint Artificial Intelligence Center (JAIC) that will aim to rapidly develop and field artificial intelligence (AI) capabilities.

In a recent message to DoD employees, Deputy Defense Secretary Patrick Shanahan said that the center will help the U.S. military keep its technological advantage over potential adversaries. Lawmakers have expressed particular concern about China’s advances in this area.

“The JAIC will enable teams across DoD to swiftly deliver new, AI-enabled capabilities and experiment with new operating concepts in our military missions and business operations,” Shanahan wrote. “Plenty of people talk about the threat from AI; we want to be the threat.”

To launch the center, the department has asked Congress to redirect $70 million in previously enacted fiscal year 2018 funds. That money would allow the JAIC to use AI to “improve predictive maintenance and demonstrate strategic reasoning in war-gaming,” according to a July 11 reprogramming request. An additional $5 million would pay for the center’s “initial staffing.”

To continue the JAIC in the coming years, DoD intends to spend $89 million in Fiscal Year 2019, $414 million in FY 2020, $414 million in FY 2021, $414 million in 2022 and $344 million in FY 2023, the document says. The FY 2019 funding will be addressed in future reprogramming requests, and funding for FY 2020 and beyond will be covered in future budget requests.

What’s in the AI Reprogramming Request?

The reprogramming request says that at least some of the JAIC’s work will follow “the same method of delivery and program intensity” as Project Maven, an AI effort that DoD launched last year to accelerate the processing of massive amounts of drone-collected video.

“You know what we need here: speed and agility,” Shanahan said. “We also need to evolve our partnerships with industry and academia. This department will lead in this arena.”

Shanahan has tapped Dana Deasy, the department’s new chief information officer, to oversee the JAIC’s creation. Deasy was previously the global CIO at financial services giant JPMorgan Chase.

Many JAIC details are still under development, including the center’s location, the size of its workforce and the date it will be stood up, a DoD spokeswoman said.

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Marc Selinger is a journalist based in the Washington, D.C., area. He can be reached at marc2255@yahoo.com. Follow him on Twitter at @marcselinger.
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