CDAO says employing AI won't save the DOD billets, will require more personnel

By Audrey Decker / February 16, 2023 at 2:31 PM

After touring multiple combatant commands, the Defense Department's chief digital and artificial intelligence office has learned that implementing AI for DOD's warfighting mission will require more personnel, not less.

The Pentagon must realize that AI is “not a free lunch,” and while it will deliver “great capability,” it requires the right allocation of resources, said William Streilein, CDAO’s chief technology officer.

“AI isn't going to save the department bodies if you will. It's not going to save the department billets. It's going to require more, but it's going to enable more capability,” Streilein said at a Potomac Officers Club event today.

Charged with consolidating various AI and data integration efforts across the department, CDAO reached full operating capability last June, combining the Joint Artificial Intelligence Center, Chief Data Officer and Defense Digital Service.

Streilein said COCOMs, a “critical” part of DOD that is less resourced than the military services, are a main focus for CDAO.

Gathering the “use cases that teach us how data can be brought to bear” from COCOMs will help CDAO figure out how it can leverage AI for warfighting purposes, he said.

Currently, the Pentagon is utilizing AI more frequently within its “enterprise spaces,” rather than for warfighting purposes, according to Streilein.

“The data on the enterprise side is actually better formed. I'm not saying it's all warm and ready to go, but it is generally in better shape. On the warfighting side, that isn't necessarily the case,” he said.

Receiving data from the tactical edge remains a more complicated challenge for the Pentagon as warfighters operate in contested spaces with limited bandwidth.

“What we hope to do is learn and expand from the enterprise use cases we already know, sort of spreading out through the operations and the logistics side, out to the actual warfighting side,” Streilein said.

Amidst concerns over the ethical use of AI for national defense, DOD has released multiple policies over the past year to lay out the pathways to responsible AI adoption.

Concurrently, the State Department released a political declaration today on the military use of AI and autonomy, noting that the use of AI “can and should” be ethical, responsible and enhance international security.