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Pentagon's 'AI Factory' Looks To Distribute Tools Across DOD

The Joint Artificial Intelligence Center will begin rolling out its Joint Common Foundation next year, its new director says.

The Joint Artificial Intelligence Center is looking to become an AI service hub for the Defense Department rather than a product building unit, according to the JAIC’s new director. 

Lt. Gen. Michael Groen assumed JAIC leadership last month, taking over from acting director Nand Mulchandani. Groen outlined his priorities for the JAIC during a Friday webinar with the center for Strategic and International Studies. He said he’s moving JAIC beyond building products that demonstrate the possibilities of AI applications to a “JAIC 2.0,” working on the broader enablement of AI across DOD. 

“The instantiation of AI across the department is very uneven,” Groen said. “Some places are very robust, some places haven't even thought it through yet. So we will continue to adapt our organization to meet that demand signal wherever that is and as the department matures and as AI integration we'll continue to move up the value chain.”

One key program coming online that will enable the “JAIC 2.0” vision is the Joint Common Foundation, or JCF. Groen said during the webinar he anticipates JCF will start offering simple services in 2021, and then begin growing in complexity to scale the project. 

Deloitte Consulting was awarded a $106 million contract in August to design and build the JCF. The JCF will operate as a kind of factory providing DOD with “an AI development environment to test, validate and field AI capabilities,” according to a statement from the Defense Information Systems Agency released when the contract was awarded. 

“What we're talking about is enabling sort of all the disadvantaged users across the department, those warfighting functions, those enterprises that see artificial intelligence use cases in their workflow, in their process, in their mission, but they really don't know what to do,” Groen said. 

Groen said the JCF will have a technical aspect, meaning a platform based in the cloud for users across DOD to work on AI projects, as well as what Groen called a soft services component. 

The technical aspect will help with things like taking advantage of data services, and the JCF may eventually store and catalogue algorithms that entities across the department can reuse for various functions, Groen said. 

The services side will promulgate best practices around areas like testing, evaluation, verification and validation, Groen said. It may also help components figure out how to contract for various AI use cases and build contract vehicles for other users to take advantage of. JAIC is also looking at certification—using the JCF platform to create educational opportunities—he added. 

“We’re eager to make progress,” Groen said. “We’re cranking it out.”