Lawmakers push on AI in draft defense bill

The Defense Department's heavy investment in artificial intelligence means more congressional oversight to make sure the emerging tech isn't just a buzzword.

Artificial intelligence could get more oversight in the next defense authorization bill with additional reporting requirements.

Congress wants to push the Defense Department to incorporate successes from the controversial Project Maven program, according to draft text from the 2020 National Defense Authorization Act released June 3. The committee wants a briefing by Jan. 3, 2020, on how Project Maven, an image and data tagging initiative that started with Google, will mesh with key Defense Intelligence Enterprise efforts.

Rep. Jim Langevin (D-R.I.), who chairs the Intelligence and Emerging Threats and Capabilities Subcommittee, said in opening remarks during a hearing to markup the bill June 4 that the draft establishes more "rigorous reporting" for the DOD CIO and defense undersecretary for intelligence regarding the Joint Artificial Intelligence Center and Project Maven's technical achievements.

The committee is also wary of multiple AI projects taking off without being anchored to one another and wants DOD to create a process to continuously form and update policies regarding emerging technologies. (The draft also calls for several new DOD-wide strategies around 5G, artificial intelligence education, and software development.)

"The Department is investing significantly in hypersonics, artificial intelligence, directed energy, and other cutting-edge technologies without a cohesive policy regarding development and employment of such capabilities," the committee wrote, and "should better align policy formulation with technology development."

The subcommittee said it "lacks a comprehensive understanding of how data, information, and services procured in support of defense intelligence requirements are tracked, governed, and made available across the enterprise" and is concerned that cloud migrations across the defense intelligence organizations will exacerbate matters -- especially regarding Project Maven and the Machine-assisted Analytic Rapid-repository System (MARS).

The legislators said they wants DOD to brief them with an "enterprise-level strategy for data, information, and services acquisitions that will reduce duplicative investments and creating efficiencies in the acquisition and capability management process" as well as biannual reports from the JAIC on how it's synchronizing the Defense Department's AI efforts with the military services, academia, industry and international partners.