Artificial Intelligence: Lt. Gen. Jack Shanahan, Pentagon’s AI Chief to Retire

Shanahan is a proponent for America’s AI readiness in the event of a conflict with a peer competitor.

The Pentagon is due to announce today the retirement in summer of Lt Gen Jack Shanahan, the first Director of the Pentagon’s Joint Artificial Intelligence Centre (JAIC), says C4ISRNET.

In this position, Shanahan has been responsible for accelerating the delivery of artificial intelligence-enabled capabilities, scaling the department-wide impact of AI and synchronizing AI activities to expand joint force advantages.

Before that, Shanahan led Project Maven. It was a cross-functional team that applied algorithmic AI and machine learning to the analysis of full-motion video. The project, initially run along with Google, applied machine learning to aerial surveillance footage to automate the detection of enemy forces.

However, for all his enthusiasm for AI in military, Shanahan opposed the Hollywood-like portrayal of AI.  He described these as “killer robots” running amok in battle, or or “an unsupervised independent self-targeting system making life-or-death decisions.”

Lt Gen John Shanahan BIO

JAIC growth and activities

Under Shanahan, the JAIC’s funding grew from an initial $93 million to a “healthy” budgetary request of $268 million for fiscal 2020. Further, the department added 60 more employees.

At JAIC, Shanahan deployed AI in efforts to improve predictive maintenance for the military’s ubiquitous UH-60 Black Hawk helicopter. The program tries to figure out when key components are about to become faulty.

On Shanahan’s watch, the JAIC also launched the Humanitarian Assistance/Disaster Relief (HADR) National Mission Initiative (NMI). It fielded Artificial Intelligence/Machine Learning (AI/ML)-powered, problem-solving prototypical applications for disaster relief.  Their objective – to quickly identify and locate people and infrastructure impacted by natural and manmade disasters.

However, despite his advocacy of non-conflict AI he was categorical that AI was critical to US national security.

“If we imagine a future 20 years hence and we’re on the cusp of let’s say a major conflict with a peer competitor and the DoD is a completely AI-enabled force, the fact that it is, would not by itself imply that we’re going to win that conflict,” he said in an interview last year.

“If we do not have a fully AI enabled force we would incur an unacceptably high risk of losing that conflict.”

Related Story:   ABI Research: U.S. Represents 52.3% of All Artificial Intelligence Investment                                                 

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