The United States needs to start accelerating the implementation of AI to compete with our adversaries, according to Lt. Gen. Michael Groen, director of the Department of Defense’s (DoD) Joint Artificial Intelligence Center (JAIC).

“Look, if we want artificial intelligence to be our future, then we have to start building it in the present,” Groen said during a virtual event hosted by the National Defense Industrial Association. “We need decision-makers, commanders, policymakers, everybody who could benefit from this transformation to start thinking about implementation now.”

The National Security Commission on Artificial Intelligence recently published a report saying the United States needs to invest more than $200 billion to win the AI race. According to Groen, recent estimates suggest AI will be a $16 trillion industry by 2030.

“I don’t think I need to tell anybody in this audience about AI, but I’d ask you to think about American competitiveness,” Groen said. “Through a national security lens, a strong economy, a strong economic presence, our role in that $16 trillion industry is going to be critical for American competitiveness, and by extension, our national defense.”

Groen said JAIC’s job is to bring AI capabilities into the DoD from the research and development communities. Groen referred to the JAIC as a “‘do tank,’ not a ‘think tank,’” when it comes to AI implementation.

“It’s essential now for both an ethical baseline perspective, and an American competitiveness perspective, that we recraft the vigor, the vitality, the agility, the advanced capabilities of our defensive commercial industries,” Groen added. “We have to do this, and we have to do it, especially in the AI space.”

Groen stressed it will take a long time to modernize and transform the entire DoD to implement AI, but he remains optimistic the agency is headed in the right direction.

“Even in the face of the scope of this challenge, I am optimistic. I see great things happening every day,” Groen said. “It’s just, we need to accelerate, we need to work faster, we need to work harder, and we need to expand and scale.”

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Grace Dille
Grace Dille
Grace Dille is a MeriTalk Senior Technology Reporter covering the intersection of government and technology.