AI and Machine Learning to Revolutionize U.S. Intelligence Community, Pentagon Official Says

by Brian Caulfield

Don’t change the culture. Unleash the culture.

That was the message one young officer gave Lt. General John “Jack” Shanahan — the Pentagon’s director for defense for warfighter support — who is hustling to put artificial intelligence and machine learning to work for the U.S. Defense Department.

Highlighting the growing role AI is playing in security, intelligence and defense, Shanahan spoke Wednesday during a keynote address about his team’s use of GPU-driven deep learning at our GPU Technology Conference in Washington.

Shanahan leads Project Maven, an effort launched in April to put machine learning and AI to work, starting with efforts to turn the countless hours of aerial video surveillance collected by the U.S. military into actionable intelligence.

“We have analysts looking at full-motion video, staring at screens 6, 7, 8, 9, 10, 11 hours at a time. They’re doing the same thing photographic interpreters were doing in World War II,” Shanahan said. “These are the finest, most well-trained analysts in the world.”

AI will free human analysts to do what they do best, Lt. Gen. Jack Shanahan said.

That’s going to change. “Let the machines do what machines do well, and let humans do what only humans can do,” Shanahan said.

GTC DC: Where Influencers Meet Innovators

Shanahan was among the growing cadre of elite Washington policymakers who flocked to the penultimate stop in a GTC world tour that will see us bring our story to more than 22,000 attendees this year.

The group included elected U.S. officials such as Sen.Gary Peters of Michigan, Rep. Darrell Issa of California and Rep. John Ratcliffe of Texas; policymakers such as France Córdova, director of the National Science Foundation; and leaders from the defense and intelligence community, such as Dawn Meyerriecks, deputy director for science and technology at the CIA, Richard Kidd, deputy assistant secretary of the U.S. Army, and Dr. Frederica Dareema, director of Air Force Office of Scientific Research.

They mingled with more than 1,000 attendees from startups, government agencies and blue-chip companies gathered at the Ronald Reagan Building and International Trade Center this week — gawking at demos such as a hoverbike, an AI police car and NVIDIA’s own Holodeck VR design lab — at a conference that’s becoming a fixture of the D.C. technology scene.

Highlighting the work of startups in a region that’s becoming a global magnet for venture capital investment — with local startups raising more than $1 billion last year — NVIDIA’s Kimberly Powell led a discussion showcasing the work of a half-dozen young companies whose work ranged across defense, aerospace, medicine and logistics.

And to help put AI to work across industry, government, and academia, Greg Estes, NVIDIA’s vice president of developer programs, announced an expansion of NVIDIA’s Deep Learning Institute, our effort to give developers hands-on experience with deep learning tools of all kinds.

New partnerships with Booz Allen Hamilton and will train thousands of students, developers and government specialists in AI. A new University Ambassador Program will help instructors worldwide to teach students critical job skills and practical applications of AI at no cost.

The Deep Learning Institute will also introduce new courses  to teach domain-specific applications of deep learning for finance, natural language processing, robotics, video analytics and self-driving cars, Estes announced.

‘Start Small, Stay Focused, Win Early’

Shanahan’s 50-minute keynote, however, put a spotlight on how deeply AI is impacting the world security, intelligence and defense.

The defense community is facing a huge challenge: it has more and better sensors than ever — but it’s struggling to make the most out of all that data, Shanahan said. “The world has changed, we’re in a data-driven environment,” he said. “More people are not the answer; better tools are the answer.”

After consulting with experts in academia, government, defense and industry, Shanahan and his team came up with a strategy that mirrors the one used by technology companies: “start small, stay focused, win early.”

Project Maven has an aggressive timeline: launched earlier this year, it will deliver AI-based algorithms for some of the military’s unmanned aerial systems by the end of next year.

Further out, Shanahan sees many more opportunities for human-machine teaming. His plan is to inspire his colleagues to use AI and machine learning to “augment, automate and amplify.”

“We’re not talking yet about replacing analysts, we’re giving them time to think,” he said.

AI Everywhere

Shanahan sees Project Maven as a force that will ripple across the entire defense community. AI and machine learning, Shanahan said, need to be pushed into everything the Department of Defense does.

“The Department of Defense should not buy another weapons system without AI,” he said.

Learn more at GPU Technology Conference.