Pentagon to spend $874 million on artificial intelligence (AI) and machine learning technologies next year

June 4, 2021
The Pentagon's AI efforts now number more than 600, which is up about 50 percent over current-year levels, DOD officials say.

WASHINGTON – U.S. Department of Defense (DOD) leaders plan to invest $874 million next year in artificial intelligence (AI)-related technologies to boost deterrence against potential adversaries like China, as well as to enhance efficiencies in computing, command and control, and logistics.

Pentagon experts are asking Congress for AI funding in several projects, as revealed in the federal fiscal year 2022 DOD budget, which was released last week. Federal fiscal year 2022 begins next 1 Oct. The Pentagon's AI efforts now number more than 600, which is up about 50 percent over current-year levels, DOD officials say.

In efforts to keep technological pace with China and other adversaries, DOD is leveraging technological advantages and investing in cutting-edge technologies like AI, hypersonic technology, cyber, and quantum computing, among others, according to DOD budget documents.

New technologies like AI, autonomy, and robotics will change the character of warfare, resulting in a faster, more lethal, and more distributed battlefield, experts say.

Related: 2022 DOD budget proposes record spending next year for U.S. military research and technology development

The Pentagon's efforts in AI primarily are part of the military's $2.3 billion science and technology research budget, and revolve around the military Joint Artificial Intelligence Center’s (JAIC) in Washington.

Pentagon science and technology efforts focus on high payoff basic research projects in physical science, life science, and applied mathematics that probe the limits of today’s technologies. Emerging technologies include AI and machine learning; quantum science; neuroscience; novel engineered materials; understanding human and social behavior; engineered biology; and manufacturing sciences.

Much of the AI funding from the separate military services filters through the JAIC, which primarily is part of the U.S. Defense Information Systems Agency (DISA), which is located at Fort Meade, Md. The U.S. Army, for example, allocates money from the service's 2022 budget request to the JAIC for efforts in small unit maneuver.

U.S. Navy leaders say they plan to capitalize on emergent, game-changing technologies through targeted investments in AI, cyber weapons, unmanned technologies, directed energy, and hypersonics.

Related: Proposed 2022 DOD budget would increase defense spending to $715 billion -- $9.6 billion over this year

U.S. Special Operations Command also is investing in AI to increase the speed of processing, exploitation, and dissemination for intelligence, surveillance, and reconnaissance.

In the Pentagon's 2022 research and development budget request, the Army is asking for $10.2 million for AI and machine learning basic research; for $15 million for AI and machine learning applied research; and for $909,000 for AI and machine learning advanced technologies.

The 2022 DISA research budget request asks for $10 million for JAIC operational systems development; and for $186.6 million for JAIC software and digital pilot programs.

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