DOD's first emerging capabilities policy director looks to move with 'responsible speed'

By Briana Reilly / May 17, 2022 at 12:22 PM

The Defense Department's first emerging capabilities policy director is calling on the military to move with "responsible speed" as it works to quicken the pace of development, experimentation and integration of new technologies.

That responsibility element, Michael Horowitz said during the Nexus 22 symposium today, is particularly important when it comes to artificial intelligence initiatives and “the need for sufficient safety and testing of systems.”

“Everybody wants us to go faster . . . and that’s right, and the top priority of our office is ensuring that emerging capabilities are more clearly, more effectively integrated into what the department does and policy’s role in strategy and plans and budgets, but the responsibility part of that is really important,” he said.

As the head of the newly created office, Horowitz, who began in the role last month, reports to Mara Karlin, the assistant secretary of defense for strategy, plans and capabilities. Through the post, Horowitz said officials aim to lead the Office of the Secretary Defense’s policy work on emerging technology diplomacy and capability strategic development in areas ranging from AI to hypersonics and directed energy.

That work includes bolstering diplomatic ties surrounding the development and deployment of new technologies and working to advance those capabilities in promotion of the National Defense Strategy, he said, all while keeping in mind “ethical questions, strategic stability questions associated with emerging technologies.”

Moving forward, Horowitz said his office is poised to ensure that AI and autonomous systems “especially” are reflected in the Pentagon’s policy and not just “the technical parts of the department” as DOD moves toward implementing its National Defense Strategy.

Asked about whether AI is receiving the appropriate level of emphasis from DOD, Horowitz said he’s hopeful given the interest in emerging technologies, the creation of his office and the stand-up of the new chief digital and AI officer in late 2021.

“I think all of those things make me optimistic that as we enter the [fiscal year 2024] budget cycle, that we’re going to start seeing that payoff as the department becomes -- it’s not a question of just more, but smarter, at thinking about AI and autonomous systems and investments in a way that really pays off for the joint force,” he said.