Pentagon raises key AI governing body

Written by

Brandi Vincent

Tucked into the Pentagon’s new, broad-based plan to responsibly operationalize artificial intelligence across the department’s sprawling enterprise is a marked increase in seniority of the primary AI governance mechanism.

The Board of Directors of the Chief Digital and AI Office (CDAO) — a four-star governing body managed by this newly created office under the Deputy Secretary of Defense — has replaced the former AI Executive Steering Group, which has a three-star governance. used to be. body led by the Joint Artificial Intelligence Center (JAIC), according to the new RAI Strategy and Implementation Process

“For any business that we want to do on behalf of the department, that’s our place to come out, collaborate and really get the feedback from all the different stakeholders that we need in the organization before taking that to the deputy. [secretary of defense]Margaret Palmierei, deputy chief of digital and AI officer, told FedScoop this week.

When several disparate agencies — including the JAIC — were recently reorganized to operate under the new CDAO, more than 20 different working groups, governance forums, and other frameworks related to data analytics and AI also came under their purview.

“In government, we like to just add new things – but in this case we said, ‘Let’s simplify it and bring all those different governance forums under one council,’” Palmieri explained.

The Pentagon newly named CDAO’s Chief Digital and AI Officer, Craig Martell, chairs this board. Through the new coordination unit, he will interact directly with senior military and Defense Department leaders on a range of topics related to the emerging high-priority technology.

“I think it brings greater transparency across all the different efforts within the department and allows our stakeholders to have a voice at the table as we start to address the systemic aspects of this department and the department. And it makes sure that, you know, as we elevate issues to the adjunct level, we can represent all those different positions in the same place,” Palmieri said.

Greg Allen, director of the AI ​​Governance Project at the Center for Strategic and International Studies and former director of strategy and policy at the JAIC, said this increase in governance is the “clearest sign yet that [DOD] leadership sees accelerating AI transformation and doing it responsibly as something top leaders should devote their time to.”

Elements of the new path reflect the fact that there is still much work to be done in this area, but that senior Pentagon officials are taking this work seriously, he noted.

Still, “one question that this document does not answer is: on what issues will the board of directors issue decisions rather than advisory recommendations?” said Allen.

The former AI Steering Committee was primarily an advisory body, but also examined decisions made by some key decision-makers, such as the Deputy’s Management Action Group.

“That was appropriate at the time, given how young and small the JAIC was — but it’s time for DOD AI governance to take the next step,” Allen said.

While Palmieri hasn’t confirmed whether that’s all finalized yet, she noted that “to the extent that the deputy secretary wants to delegate certain decisions to the CDAO, we are ready to make those decisions.”

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