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USSOCOM Increasing Use of AI

Humans More Important than Hardware

In a virtual discussion with scholars from the Hudson Institute on 7 December, Gen Richard D Clarke, commander of US Special Operations Command (USSOCOM) revealed he hopes to increase the command’s use of artificial intelligence (AI) and machine learning in all aspects of warfare, according to a DoD statement.

Project Maven – initially aimed at automating processing and exploitation of full-motion video (FMV) – jump-started the employment of AI, which is able to analyse terabytes of data rapidly to find relevant intelligence, allowing humans to make faster, better-informed decisions. AI can also be incredibly effective at monitoring the information environment, he said. During a recent visit to Afghanistan, an SOF commander told him influencing the population in a positive way can mean the difference between winning and losing.

SOCOM has been using AI for logistics – maintenance in particular – for more than two years now, he said. It saves money in terms of, for example, predicting engine life or failure on a tank or aircraft. And it allows better use of those assets. AI-powered health care can predict injuries or point to treatments to get operators into the fight faster.

In mission command, AI will power the Joint All-Domain Command and Control system, which will allow commanders to better communicate and make decisions, he pointed out, adding that while SOCOM is forging ahead quickly with AI, it is also working closely with the military services and organisations like the Joint Artificial Intelligence Center, as well as with industry, allies and partners. He emphasized that it is important that commanders set the tone and conditions to allow innovation, and encourage people to come up with great ideas. Humans are more important than hardware: “It’s the talented people that we have to help foster. You’ve got to invest the human capital into this space,” he stated.

Clarke said he is optimistic that AI will be successfully leveraged by DoD to maintain the lead against peer competitors China and Russia. It will require updating policy and infrastructure, using cloud computing and having the right people who are enabled with the right leadership.

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