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Report: U.S. military must speed up AI development to maintain edge

Leaders of the National Security Commission on Artificial Intelligence on Friday urged swift action to fund and develop AI projects to maintain a military advantage. File Photo courtesy of U.S. Army
Leaders of the National Security Commission on Artificial Intelligence on Friday urged swift action to fund and develop AI projects to maintain a military advantage. File Photo courtesy of U.S. Army

April 9 (UPI) -- The National Security Commission on Artificial Intelligence vice chair said on Friday the United States lacks a strategy to compete with China in military AI.

"The first thing is we have got to do is to take this competition seriously, and we need to win it," Robert O. Work, commission vice chair, told reporters at the Pentagon.

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He recommended that the Defense Department should spend at least 3.4 percent of its budget on identified AI priorities through its Joint Artificial Intelligence Center.

Work noted that the United States is currently the world leader in AI, but that China has structured its army, private sector and academia to overtake it.

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"We have a generational opportunity here for AI to be our future," Marine Corps Lt. Gen. Michael S. Groen, JAIC director, added, noting that beyond defense initiatives, AI will be a driver of the U.S. economy.

"We must act now. We need to start putting these pieces into place now," Groen said.

Work and Groen spoke Friday after the publication of an NCSAI report suggesting that AI is a groundbreaking and long-term technology, and urging that U.S. dominance in the area is crucial.

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"The United States must act now to field AI systems and invest substantially more resources in AI innovation to protect its security, promote its prosperity, and safeguard the future of democracy," the 10-page report says in part.

According to the report, the U.S. government is lagging behind competitors at organizing and investing in AI development, and may not be prepared to defend against "AI-enabled threats and rapidly adopt AI applications for national security purposes."

"This will be expensive and require a significant change in mindset. America needs White House leadership, Cabinet-member action, and bipartisan Congressional support to win the AI era," the report said.

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The report calls AI-enhanced capabilities "the tools of first resort" for defending against missile and cyberattacks, disinformation campaigns and swarming unmanned enemy aircraft, all of which could occur at speeds that "human operators will not be able to keep up."

Its recommendations include military AI readiness by 2025, a digitally literate U.S. workforce and a White House-led strategy for technical competition.

"Our armed forces' competitive military-technical advantage could be lost within the next decade if they do not accelerate the adoption of AI across their missions," the report reads.

In March, Groen told an industry conference that the U.S. military must scale up its artificial intelligence use or be left behind by adversaries.

He said that data must be standardized, cloud services must be adopted and AI must be integrated into military operations, adding that while current military use of AI "is a step in the right direction, we need to start building on it."

Groen noted that China has said it intends "to be dominant in AI by 2030," while the Pentagon has focused on five-year program objective memorandums looking toward 2027.

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