The U.S. Department of Defense, which is trying to improve the military’s artificial intelligence (AI) capabilities, is considering setting up an entity to focus on AI, Defense Secretary Jim Mattis said April 12.

“We’re looking at a joint office where we would we concentrate all of DoD’s efforts, since we have a number of AI efforts underway right now,” Mattis testified before the House Armed Services Committee. “We’re looking at pulling them all together.” 

Defense Secretary Jim Mattis (Army photo)
Defense Secretary Jim Mattis (Army photo)

Mattis made his comments in response to a question from Rep. Seth Moulton (D-Mass.), who expressed concern that China aims to match U.S. AI capabilities by 2020 and exceed them by 2030.

A DoD spokeswoman declined to elaborate on the potential joint office. But according to the Pentagon’s new national defense strategy, AI is one of a host of technology areas that need more investment to ensure the U.S. military keeps it edge.

AI currently falls under the auspices of the Pentagon’s new research chief, Michael Griffin, an outspoken proponent of AI.

Last year, DoD launched Project Maven, which aims to use AI to speed up the processing of vast amounts of video collected by unmanned aircraft.

Also during the hearing, Mattis reiterated his department’s support for seeking major advances in hypersonics.

“Our goal is to put something in the air, not have another study or something like this,” Mattis testified in response to a question from Rep. Steve Knight (R-Calif.)

Achieving those advances will require upgrading DoD’s aging test facilities, Mattis told Rep. Scott DesJarlais (R-Tenn.), who leads the Congressional Range and Testing Center Caucus.

Griffin said in March that improving hypersonics capabilities will be his top technical priority because U.S. leadership in that area could be critical to winning future wars (Defense Daily, March 3).