Bipartisan bill would create joint autonomy office within DOD

By Dan Schere / May 12, 2023 at 11:11 AM

A bill introduced by two House lawmakers this week would create a "joint autonomy office" within the Pentagon with the goal of increasing the speed of development and delivery for autonomous technology across the services.

House Armed Services tactical air and land forces subcommittee Chairman Rob Wittman (R-VA), and Rep. Dutch Ruppersberger (D-MD), a member of the House Appropriations defense subcommittee, have introduced the “Autonomous Systems Adoption & Policy Act,” which would create the new office within the Defense Department’s Chief Digital and Artificial Intelligence Office (CDAO), according to a Friday announcement from Wittman’s office.

The CDAO is a relatively new office established in February 2022 that integrates the Joint Artificial Intelligence Center, Defense Digital Services, the Chief Data Officer and the enterprise platform Advana.

The new proposed autonomy office would be an “enterprise platform” for all-domain autonomy testing, based on commercial best practices that is provided to existing military autonomy programs, according to Wittman’s office. The office would also include a DOD-wide framework for classifying autonomous capabilities and understanding operational requirements for technologies. Program managers in the department and industry experts would be part of the autonomy office.

Wittman said in a statement Friday that his and Ruppersberger’s legislation will “provide the DOD with the necessary resources and tools to coordinate autonomy adoption efforts across the department and accelerate delivery of trusted autonomous technologies to the warfighter in future U.S. military operations.”

Lawmakers in the House had previously been scheduled this week to mark up the annual defense authorization bill in subcommittees, but that has been delayed indefinitely as negotiations over the debt ceiling remain stalled.