Machine learning enlisted for Defense applications

DOD officials are using artificial intelligence and machine learning to get insights from big data faster.

To manage the tsunami of data available from drone surveillance, Deputy Defense Secretary Bob Work announced the creation of the Algorithmic Warfare Cross Functional Team (AWCFT). The team, otherwise known as Project Maven, is charged with accelerating the Defense Department’s integration of big data and machine learning.

“We have a lot of technical problems with how to put the right information into the data stream, data formats, aggregation of classifications and making sure people can only see what they have the clearance to access,” Tom Michelli, the acting principal deputy for the DOD CIO, said at a May 19 breakfast program hosted by the Washington, D.C., chapter of Armed Forces Communications and Electronics Association.

AWCFT's first task will be to turn the massive volume of observational data from drones  in the campaign to defeat ISIS into actionable intelligence that can enhance military decision making. Using AI, Project Maven will initially “provide vision algorithms for object detection, classification, and alerts,” according to the memo establishing the team.

Once the first 90-day sprint is complete, AWCFT will incorporate more advanced computer vision technology into other defense mission intelligence areas.

On the home front, machine leaning and data analytics are being used to consolidate data center operations at DOD.  In January, the Navy stood up the Digital Warfare Office to consolidate its data environments.

Margaret Palmieri, acting director of the Navy’s Digital Warfare Office, said the move came out of a desire to structure the Navy’s information environment in a way to make decisions that optimize performance and improve capability effectiveness.

“Up until this year, we had 60 different databases with separate logins,” Palmieiri said.  “We have made an easier interface, which involved a lot of work on the backend to provide the architectural capabilities.”

As a result of the President Donald Trump’s May 11 executive order on cybersecurity, Michelli said he expects such data and data center consolidation efforts to continue.

“One of the initiatives in the order is look at the costs and business possibilities of further collapsing data centers all over government. So it looks like the rest of government is going to take the lead from DOD,” Michelli said.  “We are continuing to drive consolidation to reduce the impact [of the executive order] to our own systems.”

NEXT STORY: NOAA casts a net for emerging tech

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