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Covington Artificial Intelligence Update: Department of Defense Establishes Joint Artificial Intelligence Center

In a memorandum issued June 27, 2018, Deputy Secretary of Defense Patrick Shanahan ordered the establishment of the Joint Artificial Intelligence Center (“JAIC”) within DoD.  The JAIC will report to DoD Chief Information Officer (“CIO”) Dana Deasey and has the “overarching goal of accelerating the delivery of AI-enabled capabilities, scaling the Department-wide impact of AI, and synchronizing DoD AI activities to expand Joint Force advantages.”  With the creation of the JAIC, the DoD has acknowledged that the AI “effort is a Department priority,” and one to which government contractors should pay attention.

The JAIC will be the primary organizational component responsible for coordinating and executing DoD’s 2018 Artificial Intelligence Strategy, which was delivered to Congress in June. Although an unclassified version of the report is not out yet, the memorandum elaborates upon what is in the report by stating that “A new approach is required to increase the speed and agility with which we deliver AI-enabled capabilities and adapt our way of fighting.”

The memorandum lays out four steps that the JAIC will take to achieve its overarching goal and execute the 2018 Artificial Intelligence Strategy.  First, it will launch “large-scale efforts to apply AI to a cluster of closely related, urgent, joint challenges.”  These National Mission Initiatives (“NMI”) “will be developed in partnership with the Military Departments and Services, Joint Staff, CCMDs, other DoD components, and mission owners.”  Second, the JAIC will “establish a Department-wide common foundation for execution in AI that includes the tools, shared data, reusable technologies, processes, and expertise to enable rapid delivery and Department-wide scaling of AI-enabled capabilities.”  Third, the JAIC will “strengthen partnerships, highlight critical needs, solve problems of urgent operational significance, and adapt AI technologies” through collaboration within the government and with industry and other strategic partners.  Fourth, the JAIC will work with the Office of the Secretary of Defense (“OSD”) “to develop a governance framework and standards for AI development and delivery.”

Regarding the fourth step in particular, the Defense Innovation Board (“DIB”) recently hosted a meeting on July 11, 2018 to further explain the mission and overarching goal of the JAIC and outline how the DIB will assist the JAIC in its efforts.  Given DoD’s recent experience with Google and the company’s pledge to forgo pursuit of future AI work with DoD under Project Maven, the DIB will assist in the development of AI principles for defense.  These principles will focus on, but not be limited to, ethical development and use, humanitarian considerations, and short-term and long-term AI safety.

Within 30 days of the issuing of the memorandum, the DoD CIO must report back “with a list of initial NMIs to be launched within the next 90 days, proposed FY18 and FY19 resourcing plans, and personnel assignment needs.”  Development of the NMI list will involve consultation with various groups “and should include the Algorithmic Warfare Cross-Functional team, Project Maven, which will be transitioned to the JAIC.”  The memorandum emphasizes the need to find funding for the JAIC beyond FY19 and notes that issues for future consideration include “initiation of additional NMIs; any resources needed for the JAIC collaboration with industry or academia, as appropriate, and the JAIC coordination across the whole of government and with our international partners.”

Additionally, the JAIC is intended to assist in the development of a common framework across DoD and “DoD and OSD components . . . are highly encouraged to collaborate with the JAIC.”  For now, any AI initiative that totals more than $15 million annually must be coordinated with the JAIC.  Ultimately, Shanahan states in the memorandum that the JAIC will help the military “to swiftly introduce new capabilities and effectively experiment with new operational concepts in support of DoD’s warfighting missions and business functions.”

© 2023 Covington & Burling LLPNational Law Review, Volume VIII, Number 197

About this Author

Susan B. Cassidy, Government Contracts Attorney, Covington Burling, Law Firm

Susan Cassidy advises clients on the complex rules and regulations imposed on government contractors, with a special emphasis on the defense and intelligence sectors. She combines a sophisticated knowledge of the FAR and DFARS with the practical insight gained from senior in-house positions at both dedicated defense and commercial item contractors.

Ms. Cassidy conducts internal investigations for clients on wide array of government contracts and national security compliance issues. She regularly advises on FAR mandatory disclosure obligations and represents...

Calvin Cohen, Covington Burling, Data privacy lawyer

Calvin Cohen is an associate in the Government Contracts and Data Privacy and Cyber Security practice groups.

While in law school, Mr. Cohen successfully represented an indigent plaintiff before the Sixth Circuit on a matter of first impression concerning computer monitoring software and the federal Wiretap Act.

Zachary M. Mears, Covington, Regulatory and public policy lawyer
Senior Advisor

Dr. Zachary Mears helps companies in the aerospace, defense, and national security sector navigate policy and regulatory challenges involving the U.S. Congress and Executive Branch. A non-lawyer, Dr. Mears has extensive experience in U.S. national security and defense strategy, planning, and resourcing, most recently serving as Chief of Staff to the Deputy Secretary of Defense and Deputy Chief of Staff to the Secretary of Defense. His substantive areas of expertise include strategic planning, risk assessment and management, and advanced technologies.

While serving...

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