DoD Adopts Ethical Principles for Artificial Intelligence Use
February 26, 2020 – The Department of Defense (DoD) has adopted a series of ethical principles for the use of artificial intelligence following recommendations made by the Defense Innovation Board last October.
The recommendations came after 15 months of discussion among leading AI experts in commercial industry, government, academia, and the American public, which resulted in thorough feedback and analysis about the use of AI in multiple areas. DoD’s adoption of ethical AI principles aligns with the department’s AI strategy objective directing the US military lead in AI ethics and the lawful use of AI systems.
“The United States, together with our allies and partners, must accelerate the adoption of AI and lead in its national security applications to maintain our strategic position, prevail on future battlefields, and safeguard the rules-based international order,” said Secretary Esper.
“AI technology will change much about the battlefield of the future, but nothing will change America’s steadfast commitment to responsible and lawful behavior. The adoption of AI ethical principles will enhance the department’s commitment to upholding the highest ethical standards as outlined in the DoD AI Strategy, while embracing the US military’s strong history of applying rigorous testing and fielding standards for technology innovations.”
The DoD’s AI ethical principles will build on the US military’s existing ethics framework, which provides a technology-neutral and enduring foundation for ethical behavior. However, the use of AI raises new ambiguities and risks, and the new principles seek to address these challenges and ensure the responsible use of the technology across the department.
The principles will apply to both combat and non-combat functions and will help the US military uphold legal, ethical, and policy commitments in the field of AI.
DoD’s ethical principles include several major areas: Responsibility, which ensures that DoD personnel exercise appropriate levels of judgment and care while maintaining responsibility for the development and use of AI; equitability, which will confirm that the department will take steps to reduce unintended bias in AI algorithms; and traceability, which will ensure that the relevant personnel have an appropriate understanding of AI capabilities.
Additionally, the principles will ensure that the department’s AI capabilities will have explicit, well-defined uses, and that AI is designed to fulfill intended functions while detecting and avoiding unintended consequences.
“Secretary Esper’s leadership on AI and his decision to issue AI Principles for the Department demonstrates not only to DoD, but to countries around the world, that the US and DoD are committed to ethics, and will play a leadership role in ensuring democracies adopt emerging technology responsibly,” said Dr. Eric Schmidt, Chair, Defense Innovation Board.
The DoD Joint Artificial Intelligence Center (JAIC) will coordinate the implementation of ethical AI principles for the department. The JAIC currently leads a series of working groups that solicit input from services and AI technology experts throughout DoD.
“We are grateful to the Defense Innovation Board for their thorough and insightful recommendations that led to the adoption of DoD AI ethical principles,” said Hon. Dana Deasy, DOD Chief Information Officer.
“Ethics remain at the forefront of everything the department does with AI technology, and our teams will use these principles to guide the testing, fielding and scaling of AI-enabled capabilities across the DOD.”