NDAA Calls for Artificial Intelligence Research

//NDAA Calls for Artificial Intelligence Research

NDAA Calls for Artificial Intelligence Research

As the meaning of warfare has increasingly shifted from conventional methods into the spheres of artificial intelligence, machine learning and robotics, the Department of Defense officials have emphasized the importance of installing new technology throughout U.S. Military and intelligence agencies.

In January, Secretary Mattis released the National Defense Strategy, in which U.S. strategic plans for artificial intelligence, machine learning and robotics were explicitly mentioned: “The Department will invest broadly in military application of autonomy, artificial intelligence, and machine learning, including rapid application of commercial breakthroughs, to gain competitive military advantages.” [1]

This commitment to new technology options is also being expressed in Congress through the National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA) for the fiscal year 2019. As of June 19th,  separate House and Senate versions of the bill were passed, including language aimed at promoting research and development into artificial intelligence, machine learning and robotics.

“The Secretary of Defense shall establish a set of activities within the Department of Defense to coordinate the efforts of the Department to develop, mature and transition artificial intelligence technologies into operational use.” [2]

Calls for such development reflect mounting concerns within the Department of Defense regarding deficiencies in artificial intelligence and machine learning innovation. Officials have expressed a potential Department of Defense lag in new tech innovation. Undersecretary of Defense, Michael D. Griffin expressed Department concern: “We don’t have a mature adult in front of us in artificial intelligence; we have an infant.” [3]

Officials unease, rests in part due to recent developments regarding technological advancements in artificial intelligence in China. Elsa Kania, Fellow at the Center for New American Security, spoke on U.S.-Chinese competition: “China is no longer in a position of technological inferiority relative to the United States but rather has become a true peer (competitor) that may have the capability to overtake the United States in AI.” [4]

Such technological lagging could risk U.S. military dominance on a global scale, potentially threatening U.S. National Security interests. Army General Mark Carleton-Smith warned about the consequences of falling behind: “given the pace of the race, to fall behind today is to cede an almost unquantifiable advantage from which it might be impossible to recover.” [5]

Existing language in the NDAA addresses concerns over U.S. lag in new tech; calling upon Department of Defense leadership to collaborate with private industry and research institutions to fill existing technological gaps: “ensure engagement with defense and private industries, research universities, and un-affiliated, non-profit research institutions.” The bill also includes clauses regarding adversarial new technology comparison with United States capabilities: “The report required shall include, an assessment of the technological prowess of the United States and adversaries on such technology.” [6]

With a revamped plan to create new opportunities within artificial intelligence and machine learning, Chairman of the House Armed Services Committee, Rep. Mac Thornberry hopes to provide necessary technology to protect service men and woman abroad: “As we face new and emerging threats, we owe it to our military’s finest to support them with the latest equipment and technologies needed to counter threats they will undoubtedly meet on the battlefield.” [7]

Chairman Thornberry says he’s aiming to wrap up NDAA talks by the end of July. [8] The McKeon Group will continue to track developments in this new technology space.


1. Department of Defense. “Summary of the 2018 National Defense Strategy of the United States of America: Sharpening the American Military’s Competitive Advantage.” Accessed June 25, 2018. https://www.defense.gov/Portals/1/Documents/pubs/2018-National-Defense-Strategy-Summary.pdf

2. Senate Committee on Armed Services. “H.R. 5515 Amendment.” Accessed June 21, 2018.

3. Rolen, Lynette. “DoD Official Highlights Value of Artificial Intelligence to Future Warfare.” Accessed June 21, 2018. https://www.defense.gov/News/Article/Article/1488660/dod-official-highlights-value-of-artificial-intelligence-to-future-warfare/.

4. Stewart, Phil. “China Racing for AI Military Edge Over U.S. : Report.” Accessed June 25, 2018. https://www.reuters.com/article/us-usa-china-ai/china-racing-for-ai-military-edge-over-u-s-report-idUSKBN1DS0G5

5. Haynes, Deborah. “Prepare for Combat, says new Army Chief General Mark Carleton-Smith.” Accessed June 21, 2018. https://www.thetimes.co.uk/article/prepare-for-combat-says-new-army-chief-general-mark-carleton-smith-c9cs7p66w.

6. Senate Committee on Armed Services. “H.R. 5515 Amendment.” Accessed June 21, 2018.

7. Werner, Ben. “House Passes FY 2019 National Defense Authorization Act.” Accessed June 21, 2018. http://news.usni.org/2018/05/24/house-passes-national-defense-authorization-act.

8. Hellman, Gregory. “The Senate Approves its NDAA, Setting up a Likely Conference Clash.” Accessed June 21, 2018. https://www.politico.com/newsletters/morning-defense/2018/06/19/the-senate-approves-its-ndaa-setting-up-a-likely-conference-clash-258758.

By |2018-07-06T22:15:09+00:00July 6th, 2018|Defense|Comments Off on NDAA Calls for Artificial Intelligence Research

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