The Department of Defense is making investments in artificial intelligence (AI) a “top priority” and will invest around $1.5 billion in AI projects at the Defense Advanced Research Project Agency (DARPA) over the next five years, Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin said July 13.

In a speech to the National Security Commission on AI (NSCAI), Austin said that the United States is working to keep pace with China on AI development and highlighted that DoD is requesting $112 billion for research and development (R&D) in its Fiscal Year 2022 budget. The House Appropriations Committee passed a DoD Appropriations bill July 13 that would invest $110.4 billion in R&D.

“Innovation requires the resources to develop new ideas and scale them appropriately,” Austin said. “And investment pays off when it’s focused on the challenges of tomorrow and not yesterday. Tech advances like AI are changing the face and the pace of warfare.”

“We believe that we can responsibly use AI as a force multiplier … one that helps us to make decisions faster and more rigorously, to integrate across all domains, and to replace old ways of doing business,” he said.

Austin explained there are currently over 600 AI projects in process across the department, which he said is “significantly” more than a year ago. Among these programs are the DoD’s Artificial Intelligence and Data Acceleration Initiative, and an algorithm-driven system to help better detect airborne threats known as Project Pathfinder.

Austin said the integrated deterrence model, which requires a combination of innovation and investment, will utilize AI and other technologies to help build a strategic advantage.

“Integrated deterrence means working closely with our friends and partners, just as this commission has urged,” Austin said. “It means using some of our current capabilities differently. It means developing new operational concepts for things that we already do. And it means investing in cutting-edge capabilities for the future, in all domains of potential conflict.”

Austin said that the department is working to train its workforce in utilizing AI responsibly, as affirmed by the DoD’s commitment to AI Ethics principles. The DoD released its roadmap to Responsible AI Implementation in June.

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Lamar Johnson
Lamar Johnson
Lamar Johnson is a MeriTalk Senior Technology Reporter covering the intersection of government and technology.