Defense and IC Finding Strong Industry Support on AI

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The military and the intelligence community are still finding strong collaboration from industry partners on artificial intelligence and data sharing, said two prominent officials on Thursday.

With the withdrawal by Google from DoD’s Project Maven in June and concerns among tech employees at other companies, cooperation between industry and government can seem shaky at times. However, officials had high praise for the availability of partners.

“There are a lot of companies very willing to work with the Department of Defense. Not all of them want to be as vocal about their support, but there are a lot of companies that support it,” said Lieutenant General Jack Shanahan, head of the Joint Artificial Intelligence Center (JAIC), at Government Executive’s Genius Machines event. “We want to work with companies that are interested in partnering with DoD to enable the full scope of their mission.”

The intelligence community has had a similar experience in finding willing partners who may not want to be very vocal, said Andrew Hallman, deputy director of the CIA for digital innovation.

“We’re mindful of course with some of these platforms, these companies that have a very strong bond of trust with their consumers that’s important to protect, but that’s not mutually exclusive to protecting America and working with us in a whole-of-nation approach,” said Hallman.

However, there have been challenges, and both acknowledged the need for a broader conversation on the ethics of AI.

“There is a generational challenge of people that have never worked with the Department of Defense before, that assume the worse–which I can understand why if they’ve never even met someone in uniform before. What I’d like to do is turn that conversation on its head and talk about the good that AI can do” said Shanahan.

Shanahan referred to the guidelines for the use of automated weapons and noted that DoD will always hold people accountable, and would not transfer accountability to a machine. However, he did not rule out any particular use cases.

Hallman shared the thinking behind the CIA’s cooperation with social media and other information sources.

“What we have to do, as an intelligence service, is get used to the concept of a very dynamic, diverse, open-source environment where the platforms will change, the data types will change, and we’re just going to have to roll with it and be agile enough and resilient enough to roll with those,” he said.

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