JAIC chief wants AI progress to be ‘slow and incremental’

The Joint AI Center wants to approach problems incrementally so it can build solutions that can be broadly applied across the military.
Lt. Gen. Michael Groen, Joint Artificial Intelligence Center director, conducts a press briefing about the DOD's efforts to adopt and scale artificial intelligence capabilities, from the Pentagon, Washington D.C., Nov. 24, 2020. (DoD photo by U.S. Air Force Staff Sgt. Jack Sanders)

The Department of Defense’s Joint Artificial Intelligence Center is looking to field AI across the military slowly, so products can be broadly usable across combatant commands, the center’s director said Friday.

That mindset appears to be different from some innovative upstart organizations within the government that have emphasized the private-sector mentality of speed and agility in finding solutions to pressing challenges. Growth for the center’s AI tools will come from solutions to common challenges that senior leaders across the military face, JAIC Director Lt. Gen. Michael Groen said during the Billington Cybersecurity Summit.

Groen said the the JAIC is “fielding through slow, incremental progress” with the hope that trusted applications can be useful across combatant commands.

“If we build an application for one combatant command, well, then we have the ability to do that horizontally,” Groen added. “Their problems are very similar.” By that, he means the JAIC will find solid solutions that can be applied across different combatant commands that face similar problems.


The goal of working slowly is to build both quality products and trust among leaders that will form the core of the JAIC’s customer base.

Eventually, the JAIC hopes to create its own app store of sorts, with catalogs of algorithms trained and ready to be applied to new data.

“We will actually start to build a library, an App Store if you will,” Groen said.

The technology behind that library is the Joint Common Foundation, a tech development stack the JAIC is building with contractors as the central repository for code, data and products.

The JAIC has been through two major strategy evolutions. It first stood up as a product-focused office, building AI tools tailor-made for specific problem sets. Then, when Groen took over the JAIC in October 2020, he soon declared a “JAIC 2.0” strategy that turned the center into an AI “enabling” force, working throughout the DOD to find ways to field AI by coordinating with other tech-focused offices.


The latest program to help the DOD field AI tools came with the deputy secretary of defense’s launch of the AI and Data Initiative (ADA), which is sending AI and data experts to combatant commands to identify technical gaps and areas were AI can help.

Groen added that as the JAIC builds its AI tools, its work is rooted in a foundation of ethical principles.

“We have our feet really firmly grounded in a responsible AI ecosystem,” he said.

His comments come after the JAIC’s head of responsible AI recently departed. The office is looking for a replacement, according to a job posting.

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