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DOD Modernization Strategy Prioritizes AI/ML & Data With $770B Defense Spending Boost

The Department of Defense is ramping up its modernization efforts with critical funding boosts and newly created senior executive roles to match the speed of rapid global developments and combat urgent pacing challenges.

Defense spending for fiscal year 2022 has increased by five percent from the previous fiscal year’s defense policy measure. In Dec. 2021, President Joe Biden signed into law the National Defense Authorization Act, which authorized $770 billion in defense spending across multiple DoD priority areas.

The NDAA notably includes measures to accelerate the Defense Department’s deployment of space-based assets, artificial intelligence and other emerging technologies.

Dr. Lisa Costa, the first chief technology and innovation officer for the U.S. Space Force, said in a LinkedIn post that artificial intelligence remains a top focus area for the DoD. However, Dr. Costa noted that AI is not the “end state” and that it should be utilized instead as one of many tools which can be leveraged to meet mission goals. 

Additionally, Dr. Costa explained that in order for data to be accessible and discoverable across defense agencies, the emphasis must be on processing only the data that is essential for the mission.

U.S. Space Force Mobilization Assistant Brigadier General John Olson said artificial intelligence and machine learning can help warfighters and Pentagon officials understand and better process large amounts of data.

“Artificial intelligence and machine learning are absolutely essential enablers to make us able to react, and respond, and again, make sense of the information then act upon it,” Olson said during a panel discussion hosted by the American Institute of Aeronautics and Astronautics.

DoD’s Deputy Secretary Kathleen Hicks, a previous Wash100 Award winner, also recently announced the creation of the new chief digital and AI officer (CDAO) role, within the Office of the Secretary of Defense, in a move that represents the Pentagon’s increased focus on AI, data and digital transformation efforts in alignment with JADC2 goals.

The Defense Department’s most significant modernization initiative to date, Joint All-Domain Command and Control, aims to connect military sensors and shooters across service branches as well as build a centralized network for increased military interoperability and data sharing. 

The newly created CDAO position aims to provide the Defense Department with dedicated governance focused on integrating advanced technologies and accelerating modernization programs in order to tackle JADC2 implementation challenges surrounding logistics, budget and accountability.

Additional executive appointments and reorganization moves aligned with modernization strategies include the appointment of Martin Akerman as the National Guard Bureau’s first chief data officer and the establishment of the Defense Information Systems Agency’s Office of the Chief Data Officer.

Dr. Lisa Costa and Brig. Gen John Olson will participate alongside today’s preeminent defense agency and industry leaders at the DOD: Digital Modernization Forum hosted by GovCon Wire Events.

The Jan. 13 virtual event will cover the emerging technologies, budgetary shifts and emerging priority areas influencing the Defense Department’s modernization strategies in an era of intensifying global competition, particularly in the space domain.

Visit the GovCon Wire Events page to register the forum and view the platform’s full calendar of upcoming GovCon sector events.

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