The Department of Defense’s (DoD) Joint Artificial Intelligence Center (JAIC) launched its “JAIC 2.0” effort six months ago to focus on accelerating AI enablement across the DoD. However, JAIC Director Lt. Gen. Michael Groen says the effort needs to move much faster.

“Is JAIC 2.0 enough?” Gen. Groen asked during a press conference on April 9. “Are we moving fast enough? Are we moving fast enough to create enterprises of capability and overcome stove-piped developments? Are we moving fast enough to really change our operating model to data-driven and data visibility across the department? Are we moving fast enough in integrating innovative technology into the department? … I lay awake at night and say the answer is ‘no.’”

Knowing how important AI enablement is for DoD is “what keeps the JAIC motivated and keeps us working hard every day because we recognize how big this is and the scale of the Department of Defense and how necessary this transformation is at scale,” according to Gen. Groen.

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The general also emphasized that budget constraints only increase the need for rapid AI adoption within DoD.

“In an era of tightening budgets and a focus on squeezing out things that are legacy or not important in the budget, the productivity gains and the efficiency gains that AI can bring to the department, especially through the business process transformation actually becomes an economic necessity,” Gen. Groen said. “In a squeeze play between modernizing our warfare that moves at machine speed and tighter budgets, AI is doubly necessary.”

Robert Work, vice chair of the National Security Commission on Artificial Intelligence (NSCAI) and former deputy secretary of Defense, agreed with Gen. Groen and called for the department to increase its AI budget. Work said NSCAI recommends an AI budget equaling at least 3.4 percent of DoD’s total budget.

“We think it should be a minimum of 3.4 percent of the budget and we recommend that the department spend about $8 billion on AI R&D annually,” Work said during the press conference. “That will allow us, we think, to cover down on all of the key research areas.”

The NSCAI set a goal for DoD and the Federal government to be “AI-ready” by 2025, and said they should have the foundation in place “for widespread integration of AI.” However, Work said he is worried if the Federal government does not put itself in an AI-ready position by 2025 that China will surpass the United States in the AI competition.

“We are absolutely confident, as a commission, we can win this competition,” Work said. “But we will not win it if we do not organize ourselves and have a strategy and have resources for the strategy.”

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