Source – https://www.nationaldefensemagazine.org/
Before the Marine Corps can fully utilize the power of AI technology and the efficiencies it brings, the service must overcome one major hurdle: trust.
That’s the message from Commandant Gen. David Berger.
“We’re going to have to trust artificial intelligence,” he said during remarks at the National Defense Industrial Association’s Expeditionary Warfare Conference in February. “We’re not trusting today.”
Whether it’s “sensor-to-shooter or fuel to a frontline unit, we put humans in the loop at about 16 places because we don’t trust it yet,” he said.
The best way to boost confidence in the technology is to have Marines train machines, he said. “Then we’ll trust it.”
Brig. Gen. Eric Austin, director of the Marine Corps’ Capabilities Development Directorate, said building that faith in artificial intelligence will unlock its potential.
Service leaders believe the technology will be a key enabler for troops.
“How do we improve the Marine’s ability to understand the environment, make a decision based on what they see and then act, and ensure that those actions are communicated across the force — and do it faster than an adversary?” Berger said. “Some of the technology for doing that already exists.”
Artificial intelligence could assist the service with sifting through large quantities of data to provide commanders with targeted information, he said.
Intelligence information “can be stored, sorted and downloaded from a cloud for our forward deployed forces,” he said.
Austin said intelligence analysis is one of the service’s most mature applications of AI. The Marine Corps is developing tools to process vast amounts of data, provide rapid situational awareness to relieve cognitive burdens and enable Marines to focus on making critical decisions, he said.
The service is also employing artificial intelligence for force protection, he noted. It is currently using the technology for a counter-drone effort to protect forward bases.
The capability is “really neat because it’s a sensor-agnostic approach that provides the inputs through an artificial intelligence framework and leverages algorithms to discriminate threats and offer means to mitigate them, to reduce the burden on operators and … increase the velocity and accuracy of human decisions,” Austin said.
The service is also investing in systems that allow Marines to access data at the tactical edge while operating in denied and degraded environments with limited bandwidth by prioritizing dissemination of the most critical data, he added.
Other key areas of AI development include business processes, support for maintenance missions and improving logistics, he said. It could also be used to inform force development.
The Marine Corps wants to move beyond just the analytics aspect of AI and pursue systems that can truly make recommendations rapidly, he noted.
Austin said the service is on the verge of unprecedented change driven not only by the emergence of new capabilities, but modifications to tactics, techniques and procedures.
“We’ve got to not only realize new capabilities, but we’ve got to know how to use them,” he said. “Part of that comes from just getting these capabilities and these tools in the hands of the Marines and watching them go.”
While the service has AI experts and data scientists on its team, developing the technology is not as simple as just knocking on their door and asking for a system, Austin said.
Artificial intelligence and other emerging technologies such as unmanned systems are ubiquitous across the military’s portfolio of activities and warfighting functional areas, “which adds to the complexity of our approach,” he said.
Key to the way ahead will be to continue to operationalize AI in meaningful and increasingly sophisticated ways, he said. Marines will need to value, understand, field and employ these types of platforms to gain an advantage. The service will need to invest in the science and technology underlying AI systems and test them during experimentation events, Austin said.
The Marine Corps will also need to be open to making mistakes and learning from them as it embarks on an AI-enabled future, he added.
“We’re going to goof it up sometimes. You’re going to fail,” he said.
Ultimately, the technology will be useful across multiple lanes, whether it’s business systems, applications like Joint All-Domain Command and Control — which is being pegged as an internet-of-military-things — or advanced weapon platforms, Austin said.
“We’re just going to learn a lot and find new ways to use it,” he said.
Meanwhile, AI can help with force readiness, Berger said in a recent Washington Post op-ed that he co-authored with Air Force Chief of Staff Gen. Charles “CQ” Brown Jr. with the headline, “To Compete with China and Russia, the U.S. Military Must Redefine ‘Readiness.’”
In the op-ed, the generals argue that readiness “has become synonymous with availability,” and note that this short-term and narrow view is poorly suited for great power competition.
“We propose a new framework for defining readiness, one that better balances today’s needs with those of tomorrow, incorporating elements of current availability, modernization and risk,” they wrote. “As a starting point, we recommend adding to readiness metrics new layers of analysis utilizing artificial intelligence to leverage the military’s data-rich environment. Such a framework would enable military service chiefs to better prioritize investments in research, development and future force design initiatives, rather than spending the majority of their resources on making decades-old capabilities ready for employment.”
This framework would deliver forces that combatant commanders need today but also invest in capabilities needed for the future, they said.