The House Armed Services Committee’s bipartisan Future of Defense Task Force on Sept. 29 released its final report laying out required military capabilities in the coming decades–chief among them artificial intelligence (AI).
“Using the Manhattan Project as a model, the United States must undertake and win the artificial intelligence race by leading in the invention and deployment of AI while establishing the standards for its public and private use,” per the report. “Although the Department of Defense has increased investment in AI and established the Joint Artificial Intelligence Center to assist with the transition and deployment of AI capabilities, cultural resistance to its wider adoption remains. Congress and the Department of Defense must take additional action to overcome these barriers.”
The task force advises DoD to require that “every Major Defense Acquisition Program…evaluate at least one AI or autonomous alternative prior to funding” and to require “all new Major Defense Acquisition Programs to be AI-ready and nest with existing and planned joint all-domain command and control networks.”
In addition, the task force recommends an expansion of DoD’s “authorities and abilities to evaluate high technology readiness level items and technologies that satisfy defense requirements to reduce risk for major acquisition programs, lower procurement costs, and accelerate the fielding of critical capabilities.”
Since last October, the task force held two hearings and five congressional delegation visits abroad and heard from 24 government, industry, and academic experts, among them Jim Baker–the director of the DoD Office of Net Assessment; U.S. Air Force acquisition chief Will Roper; and Rear Adm. David Hahn, the chief of naval research.
“Author Chris Brose, who testified before the task force, discusses in his recent book The Kill Chain how, in wargames simulating conflict with China in the Eastern Hemisphere over the last decade, the United States lost nearly every time,” per the task force report. “In such scenarios, much of the needed military capability was thousands of miles away and would come under persistent attack while attempting to reach the battlefield.”
“This scenario plays out, in part, because the military’s investment in modern platforms has not sufficiently matched its ability to protect its forces and integrate them into new operational concepts,” the report said. “For example, high-end platforms like the F-35 are of little value if the military cannot protect and supply the bases from which they need to operate. The Pentagon has prioritized the purchase of these types of high-end systems without sufficiently balancing the need to procure associated enabling capabilities such as defending forward bases, ensuring supply chain logistics for fuel and munitions, and securing networking and communications.”
Rep. Seth Moulton (D-Mass.) and Rep. Jim Banks (R-Ind.), the task force co-chairmen, wrote in a prologue to the report that “our adversaries are surging around the globe in a long-game effort to supplant western style democracy with a form of authoritarianism that cloaks itself in capitalism as it undermines personal liberties and freedoms.”
“The United States must recognize that without a new commitment to achieving technological superiority, the successes of the 20th century–the American Century–will no longer be assured,” Moulton and Banks wrote.