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JEDI delay slows DOD’s AI push

The Defense Department’s artificial intelligence push has been hampered by the lack of an enterprisewide cloud computing platform, according to Lt. Gen. Jack Shanahan, who leads the Pentagon’s Joint AI Center (JAIC).

"The lack of an enterprise solution has slowed us down," but "the gears are in motion," Shanahan said during an AFCEA DC virtual event May 21 on artificial intelligence and machine learning in DOD.

Shanahan said the JAIC is using an "alternate platform" to host a newer anti-COVID effort called Project Salus -- a data aggregation platform that uses predictive modeling and resource allocation decision tools to get front-line workers the equipment they need.

Project Salus should be on the Joint Common Foundation, an enterprise-wide and multi-cloud environment, Shanahan said. The JAIC was slated to be an early adopter of the Joint Enterprise Defense Infrastructure program – the $10 billion DOD-wide cloud acquisition that was won by Microsoft last October but has been mired in legal battles ever since.

"It's set us back, there's no question about it, but we now have a good plan to account for the fact that it will be delayed potentially many more months," he said.

That plan includes using an interim solution at Hanscom Air Force Base, pivoting to the Air Force's Cloud One environment and using Microsoft Azure and Amazon Web Services capabilities.

"We're kind of covering our bases with [Microsoft] Azure, AWS," he said. "I just need an enterprise cloud solution. If we want Elastic Compute [capability], if we want to make worldwide updates to all these algorithms in the space of minutes not in the space of months … we've got to have an enterprise cloud solution."

The JAIC just forged a five-year $800 million task order for joint warfighter operations to assist in decision-making and data analysis. That deal with Booz Allen was executed via the Alliant 2 contract vehicle at the General Services Administration.

"That is our big focus area for the next year," Shanahan said. "This is showing that we are serious about taking AI and putting it into warfighting operations" that include assisting in emergency responses by converting text and video data in actionable information, and accelerating data streams from sensors to shooters.

This article was first posted to FCW, a sibling site to GCN.

About the Author

Lauren C. Williams is senior editor for FCW and Defense Systems, covering defense and cybersecurity.

Prior to joining FCW, Williams was the tech reporter for ThinkProgress, where she covered everything from internet culture to national security issues. In past positions, Williams covered health care, politics and crime for various publications, including The Seattle Times.

Williams graduated with a master's in journalism from the University of Maryland, College Park and a bachelor's in dietetics from the University of Delaware. She can be contacted at [email protected], or follow her on Twitter @lalaurenista.

Click here for previous articles by Wiliams.


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