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AI Ready by 2025: Key Takeaways from the NSCAI’s Final Report

If there’s one prevailing message from the recently published Final Report by the National Security Commission on Artificial Intelligence (NSCAI), it’s this: the United States must be AI and data ready by 2025.

While the challenges in adopting and integrating AI are numerous, the Department of Defense (DoD) and the US government have a great opportunity to stand out as a national security leader by embracing the NSCAI’s recommendations. More specifically, there are a handful of key takeaways from the report that is critical to understanding how the US can accelerate its journey toward being AI and data ready in the coming years.

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First, to successfully adopt, apply, and integrate AI technologies, the US must take a more holistic approach and build a robust foundation made up of several necessary prerequisites: establishing data readiness, ensuring digital literacy, and properly aligning AI acquisition and adoption.

Building this strong foundation is a necessary step in ensuring that the DoD and the US government can effectively leverage AI to solve national security’s toughest problems, including enhancing mission readiness across a wide range of use cases.

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While the foundation is being established, the DoD must seek out commercially proven, government-focused AI solutions from companies in the private sector.

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Even though specific requirements and rigid regulations have deterred private companies from working with the DoD, steps are being taken to speed up and scale AI adoption, such as establishing the Defense Innovation Unit and AFWERX to bridge the gap with commercial technology providers. In particular, the NSCAI report identified the Joint Artificial Intelligence Center (JAIC) as the DoD’s AI accelerator, essentially to serve as connective tissue between the DoD and government tech innovators. Not only will this allow the DoD to accelerate AI acquisition, but it will also enable them to deploy solutions and tackle national security’s most pressing challenges much quicker.

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In addition to leveraging commercial solutions, it’s imperative that the DoD streamline AI and technology acquisition processes so that national security leaders don’t have to rely on outdated technologies to execute their missions.

In its report, the NSCAI emphasizes coordinating acquisition workforce training so that acquisition professionals are equipped to discover and accelerate the delivery of newer, more innovative technologies to warfighters. Furthermore, increasing data accessibility will invite different types of companies to compete and deliver more advanced solutions, which will further encourage flexibility in the types of commercial technologies the DoD can acquire.

In order to ramp up AI efforts to support national security missions, the need to adequately fund this transformative technology is greater than ever before. While DoD leaders anticipate that future defense budgets will remain flat or significant decline in the years ahead, the nearly exponential growth of technological innovation facilitates the need to fund key efforts associated with AI development, capability, and scaling. This includes establishing a dedicated AI fund with at least $200 million, as well as a $100 million fund under the management of the JAIC for the strategic procurement and integration of commercial AI applications.

Finally, if the US intends to keep pace with foreign adversaries and be AI and data ready by 2025, investing in and expanding its defense industrial base can put it on the fast track. While some foreign powers have relied on centralized planning and development of AI technology solutions, the DoD and the US government have a great opportunity to foster open innovation between companies, which can speed up the rate of driving significant change.

The NSCAI’s report recommends developing a Technology Annex to the National Defense to help identify emerging technologies and potentially expedite acquisition, which would enable the DoD to work with new companies with promising technology that can directly address the government’s top priorities. By embracing these new companies, the DoD can help usher in a new wave of technology companies yearning to work with the US government, which will only help amplify and accelerate AI adoption over time.

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