Artificial Intelligence: Outgoing JAIC Director Shanahan Says the Pentagon Will Transform Itself Through AI

June 15, 2020 | Artificial Intelligence, News

Lt Gen Jack Shanahan, director of the Joint Artificial Intelligence Center (JAIC) was speaking to the Mitchell Institute for Aerospace Studies.

AI and machine learning are going to be inextricably woven into the functioning of every area in the Department of Defense (DoD). That’s according to Lt. Gen. Jack Shanahan, Director, Joint Artificial Intelligence Center (JAIC). (

In the interview, Shanahan said: “There is no part of the department that will not be impacted by this.”

“From the back office to the battlefield, and as I like to say, from under the sea to cyberspace and outer space, and all points in between – everything could be made better through the application of AI.”

AI overhaul in the DoD

Shanahan mentioned that during his 18-month tenure the JAIC had gone from four people and no money to a team of 185 staff with a budget of over a billion dollars. Given the fast growth, JAIC was now going to move to a separate facility.

“The foundational elements are now in place. What we have to do in the course of the next 1-2 years is deliver,” Shanahan said. “We have to show that we’re making a difference. We’ve got to show real delivery for the Department of Defense.”

Further, he said that AI implementation in the DoD had been stuck in “first gear” because it struggled with the challenges of how “to take the world’s best AI R&D, bring it across that so-called ‘technological valley of death,’ and field it at speed and scale.”

However, all that may soon change.

“It is my conviction and my deep passion that AI will transform the character of warfare and the Department of Defense over the course of the next 20 years,” Shanahan said.

Going on the offensive

However, while the defensive bases have been covered over the past 18 months, the DoD now needs to shift to an offensive mentality.

America’s technological supremacy over China and Russia is limited only by the Pentagon’s “failure of imagination,” and not using our inherited advantage of advanced technology.

“The only failure will have his failure of imagination… technology by itself is just technology.”

Therefore, we need to come up with operating concepts around things like AI, 5G, blockchain, cloud, and eventually maybe quantum.

Meanwhile, the Pentagon has launched the Joint All Domain Command and Control (JADC2) framework to seamlessly coordinate the deployment of AI across the five warfare domains namely air, space, cyber, land, and maritime.

Inflection point

“We tend to overestimate the impacts of technology in the short term; underestimate those impacts in the long term.,” Shanahan observed.

“I believe that’s where we are with AI. I do believe we’re going to hit that inflection point and the exponential growth of this will happen, and it will happen faster than probably a lot of people understand right now.”

Shanahan retires

Shanahan was the first Director of the Pentagon’s Joint Artificial Intelligence Centre (JAIC). He has laid down the reins on June 1.

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

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

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