October 10, 2018

The Defense Innovation Board (DIB), an independent federal committee advising the Secretary of Defense on various issues that focus on people and culture, technology and capabilities, and practices and operations, recently held a public meeting at the school deliberating on artificial intelligence (AI) principles for defense, the importance of data as a strategic asset, and recent updates from its Software Acquisition and Practices (SWAP) study.

Eric Schmidt, Board Chairman and former CEO of Google commented in his opening remarks that the Board has been asked to help the Department of Defense (DoD) develop its own set of AI principles and an ethical framework for applying AI. He noted that it is critically important to get the community to participate in this discussion.  

Dr. Heather Roff, Sr. Research Analyst at Johns Hopkins University’s Applied Physics Lab, underscored the importance of ethics as a set of guiding principles of action for the DoD to develop and field AI capabilities for national defense. She stated that in the field of AI, epistemology is essential to answer questions about ethics, responsible design or innovation and intended practices, procedures or policies.

Dr. Andrew Lohn, Engineer with RAND Corporation and Professor of Public Policy at the Pardee RAND Graduate School, talked about the risks on using AI. He suggested that as the current technologies are not fully ready and humans have limits on understanding all those complex algorithms, we need to be very cautious for what the failure modes are and when and where we should apply artificial intelligence.

Michael Conlin, Chief Data Officer at the Department of Defense, reflected on the importance of data as a strategic asset by first briefing the public on three core documents that shape the DoD’s work on data, which are the National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA), National Defense Strategy (NDS) and the President’s Management Agenda. He noted that reform at DoD is not a one-time event. Instead, the Department has been continuously trying to improve itself to be able to match and exceed capabilities of its competitors.

Bess Dopkeen, Software Acquisition and Practices (SWAP) Study Lead, together with six subgroup leaders, released the recent updates from their studies since December 2018 when Congress directed the Secretary of the DIB to undertake a study on streamlining software development and acquisition regulations .

At the end of the meeting, members of the public provided comments regarding the DIB's deliberations and potential recommendations.

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