Former Deputy Secretary of Defense Robert Work was not at the Department of Defense (DoD) when the Joint Artificial Intelligence Center (JAIC) was established in 2018, but did offer recommendations on the center’s name and focus.

“The first thing I would recommend is that we rechristen the JAIC as the JAAIC, the Joint AI and Autonomy Center,” said Robert Work, the former Deputy Secretary of Defense from 2014 to 2017, during a recorded speech played on September 1 during the Artificial Intelligence & Machine Learning Technology Summit hosted by AFCEA.

Work, the vice chair of the congressionally mandated National Security Commission on Artificial Intelligence (NSCAI), emphasized the need to use AI for a military purpose.

“We need to continually inculcate the idea that we’re not pursuing AI for AI’s sake,” Work said. “We are doing it for competitive military advantage and the way to get competitive military advantage is through AI-enabled autonomy.”

The former Marine Corps member with 27 years of active duty experience said there are “more and more unmanned systems,” pointing to a changing dynamic in warfare. AI, he said, should be enabling the autonomy of the military systems.

“The first thing I think we need to do is establish a clear message and priority,” Work said. He also said the JAIC director should report directly to the Secretary of Defense or Deputy Secretary of Defense. The Acting JAIC Director, Nand Mulchandani, currently reports to the DoD CIO Dana Deasy.

A provision included in the House version of the National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA) would assign responsibility of the JAIC to the Deputy Secretary of Defense. A Senate bill introduced in June would require the JAIC Director to report directly to the Secretary of Defense.

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Dwight Weingarten
Dwight Weingarten
Dwight Weingarten is a MeriTalk Staff Reporter covering the intersection of government and technology.