Artificial Intelligence: CARES Act Funds Flow to the Pentagon for COVID-19 Vaccines; Lt. Gen. Jack Shanahan Retires at JAIC

The Department of Defense has added its AI muscle to the fight against COVID-19.

In April the Department of Defense (DoD) announced plans to use AI and machine learning against COVID-19 and other future virus attacks. The DoD has now unveiled a spending plan to revamp its AI capabilities to “rapidly screen, prioritize, and test Food and Drug Administration approved therapeutics for new COVID-19 drug candidates and human test trials for vaccines and antibody-based treatments.” (HEALTH IT ANALYTICS)


The DoD received a total of $10.5 billion in emergency funding within Division B — Emergency Appropriations for Coronavirus Health Response and Agency Operations of the CARES Act. The DoD was authorized by Congress to adjust its appropriations in line with the rapidly evolving nature of the Coronavirus Disease 2019 (COVID-19) response.

Accordingly, DoD is proposing to fund its AI/COVID-19 plans out of an amount of $3.8 billion for the Defense Health Program under the CARES Act. The DoD will use the funds to prepare for, prevent, and respond to the COVID-19 pandemic.

The funds would go into the Pentagon’s research and development accounts.

Rapid screening

“DoD continues to rapidly adapt its response to the COVID-19 pandemic to protect the force and ensure the continuation of DoD missions,” the report stated. “Without this funding, such rapid AI-enabled screening capabilities cannot be established in time to respond to the current crisis.”

The amounts appropriated are as follows:

  • $304K – To apply artificial intelligence (AI)-based models to rapidly screen, prioritize and test Food and Drug Administration (FDA)-approved therapeutics for new COVID-19 drug candidates.
  • $5 million – to identify Food and Drug Administration (FDA)-approved drugs that could be repurposed as effective treatments for COVID-19.
  • $52 million – to prevent, diagnose, and treat COVID-19.
  • $619K – to apply AI to rapidly screen, prioritize and test FDA-approved therapeutics for new COVID-19 drug candidates.
  • $2 million – to rapidly develop and field a potential capability to detect airborne Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome Coronavirus 2 (SARS-CoV-2). Enable persistent, broad-scale environmental screening for contagions. Example airports, mass transportation hubs, and public areas where community transmission control is critical.
  • $53.08 million – to test ultra-sensitive methods for diagnosing COVID-19. Develop U.S. sourced production capabilities for chemical precursors needed to produce pharmaceuticals critical to SARS-CoV-2/COVID-19. Assess the efficacy of the Food and Drug Administration (FDA)-approved therapeutic drug candidates for the treatment of COVID-19.

The DoD has formed a team at the Pentagon as well as a crisis management team at the Joint Staff’s facility in Suffolk, Virginia.


Lt Gen Jack Shanahan, the first Director of the Pentagon’s Joint Artificial Intelligence Centre (JAIC) has laid down the reins on June 1.

He handed over charge to chief technology officer, Nand Mulchandani.

Mulchandani will be acting director until a permanent three-star general or flag officer is confirmed. He has over 26 years of experience at Silicon Valley – doing this for a living at software companies.

Related Story: Lt. Gen. Jack Shanahan, Pentagon’s AI Chief to Retire

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