The Defense Department today announced plans to create two BRAVO Artificial Intelligence Battle Labs, one based at U.S. European Command and the other at U.S. Indo-Pacific Command, to host "hackathons" intended to develop and strengthen the military's AI capabilities.
Both labs will be used to organize U.S. federal government-wide BRAVO hackathons, which invite people to form emerging capabilities under department leadership, including some with coalition partners.
"BRAVO Hackathons represent an opportunity for DOD to practice and proliferate the fundamentals of user-centered design and agile software development," said Joe Larson, DOD’s deputy chief digital and AI officer for algorithmic warfare.
"By providing the seed funding to establish the AI Battle Labs in EUCOM and INDOPACOM,” he said, “we will be designing and testing data analytic[s] and AI capabilities with warfighters, not for them, informing and strengthening our ability to deliver exactly what they need to win."
The BRAVO Hackathon series will keep planning one-week long events to integrate data of any classification in a software development environment that allows untrusted, licensed commercial and open-source software and data that is otherwise not authorized for use in production systems.
"On behalf of the DOD, we will deploy BRAVO's awesome development experience to combatant commands to host timeboxed hackathons and continuously develop and integrate capabilities developed from operational theater data," said Stuart Wagner, Air Force chief digital transformation officer and executive agent for the BRAVO AI battle labs. "Given that a free society's largest competitive advantage is innovation and collaboration, the labs will provide a physical and digital space for serendipitous social collisions as DOD, industry, and coalition partners prototype solutions to challenges from peer competitors. Any U.S. citizen remains eligible to apply to participate in public BRAVO hackathons."
According to a DOD release, these multi-classification labs are intended to collect operational theater data, ranging from logistics to cyber, to share with the DOD enterprise which should in turn create central hubs for digital integration among federal entities, industry, coalition partners and U.S. citizens.
In accordance with the labs’ bottom-up approach, the release also encourages federal government employees or federal contractors to share cases, data, infrastructure or potential collaborations with the labs through the email: firstname.lastname@example.org. And recommends U.S. citizens and U.S. industry professionals looking to work with the labs to contact the DIU at email@example.com.
"We look forward to working with the BRAVO labs to ensure that developers and companies who want to work with DOD data can rapidly access the environments they need to demonstrate operational relevance," said Doug Beck, director of the Defense Innovation Unit.
The release states that the labs intend to interconnect combatant command, enterprise DOD and coalition partner capabilities from data ingestion and system integration to approved employment, citing the Air Force’s system-of-systems technology integration toolchain for heterogeneous electronic systems (STITCHES) as a service to integrate directly to the labs.
"The use of emerging AI tools to quickly analyze and leverage data for decision advantage is critical in today's increasingly complex threat environment," said U.S. Army Maj. Gen. Peter Andrysiak, chief of staff at EUCOM. "Establishing one of the BRAVO AI Battle labs within the USEUCOM region is an important investment for this command. The lab will enable greater innovation at the edge, with our Allies and partners, against a range of challenges at a pivotal time for the command."
BRAVO hackathons are not new to the department. Over three BRAVO hackathons at six different sites, 81 operational prototypes have been created at three classifications from operational DOD data. These occurred at approximately 2% of the cost of existing DOD minimum viable product innovation pipelines.
"Despite the speed and impacts from BRAVO hackathons, we are still finding the time from development of capabilities, calibrations, or tactics with operational data to employment in theater to be on the order of months or years," Wagner said. "We are deploying these labs to drop this timeline by a factor of 100 -- from months or years to days and eventually hours -- by increasingly automating bureaucratic processes such as data classification determinations and authority to operate applications. If successful, we will adapt our capabilities and tactics to our strategic competitors faster than they can adapt to us."