Pentagon Worried That U.S. Military Losing AI Advantage


Artificial Intelligence has, and will always be, controversial depending on how it is used.  While the medical field will tout the positive impact it has within healthcare, others are raising concerns of possible problems that loom over the horizon.  Specifically, a recent article says that the Pentagon is worried that our military is losing the advantage of AI to Russia and China.


House Subcommittee Hearing Raises Concern Over AI

The U.S. military is not being shy about their concern over artificial intelligence, according to a recent article on the Gazette’s website.  The main concern is a loss in high-tech advantage as Russia and China are creating artificial intelligence that is more sophisticated. This warning was brought up by Pentagon officials to the House subcommittee.

Meanwhile, the hearing was bound to get the attention of Colorado Springs defense subcontractor Polaris Alpha; last May, they were awarded a $2.3 million Defense Department contract to be utilized for creating artificial intelligence systems. Naturally, if Congress decides to approve additional spending for AI, among the winners would likely be Polaris Alpha.

Officials from the Pentagon briefed the House Armed Services subcommittee on the emerging capabilities and threats as they described the strategic plan of China, which is to increase spending for artificial intelligence.  While AI can be utilized for self-driving vehicles and facial recognition, the Defense Department uses artificial intelligence for identification and response toward military aggression and threats. 


The Race for Leadership in Artificial Intelligence

Nations continue to vie to become the leader in AI, which comes to a hefty price tag. According to reports from the Defense Department, China, for example, spent $12 billion on artificial intelligence in 2017; however they plan on increasing their budget to the tune of at least $70 billion by 2020.  Meanwhile, the U.S. military spent roughly $7.4 billion in 2017 for new technology that included artificial intelligence.

Dana Deasy, who is the Pentagon’s chief information officer, spoke to the panel and said, “other nations, particularly China and Russia, are making significant investments in AI for military purposes.  These investments threaten to erode our technological and operational advantages and destabilize the free and open international order.”

The hearing was called by the subcommittee in part as a response to the John S. McCain National Defense Authorization Act for the 2019 fiscal year.  This directed the Defense Department to conduct a review on whether military needs are being met by AI.  Since the measure is to require the Pentagon to create a plan for artificial intelligence, one part of the plan would be the Polaris Alpha contract.

The Gazette spoke to Amber Thompson-Nadler, the spokeswoman for Polaris Alpha parent company Parsons, who said that their technology is “enhancing warfighter situational awareness, predicting threats and supporting mission planning.”  She went on to say that, “AI is an increasingly vital tool in the U.S. military’s arsenal for the simple reason that it provides the warfighter with an asymmetric advantage across the entire spectrum of the modern battlefield.”


There were some members of the subcommittee that did not speak during the hearing, however, other members of the Colorado delegation gave strong opinions on artificial intelligence regarding the military and the role of how Colorado supports it. Republican Colorado U.S. Senator Cory Gardner said in a statement that, “It’s extremely important we make sure U.S. military technology and capabilities remain ahead of other countries like China and Russia, and Colorado companies can play a major role in this space.”

Republican Colorado U.S. Rep. Ken Buck said that, “the United States should aim to lead the world in artificial intelligence research and overall military readiness. It is frightening that the U.S. may have ceded our AI advantage to China, given China’s human rights abuses and aggressive behavior in the South China Sea.”  

Although Pentagon officials have announced new artificial intelligence programs are being initiated, such as Project Maven, it will remain to be seen if the U.S. military can find a way to regain their confidence in becoming the leader in AI or if nations like China will become masters of artificial intelligence superiority.

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