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Pentagon Using Artificial Intelligence to Predict Incidents ‘Days in Advance’

Published: August 5, 2021
ARLINGTON, VIRGINIA - SEPTEMBER 10: Chief of Testing and Evaluation of the Pentagon’s Joint Artificial Intelligence Center Jane Pinelis participates in a news conference at the briefing room of the Pentagon September 10, 2020 in Arlington, Virginia. (Image: Alex Wong/Getty Images)

The U.S. military is testing cutting edge artificial intelligence (AI) algorithms that the Pentagon says will allow American forces to predict major events prior to them happening.

At a press conference, on July 28, General Glen D. VanHerck, commander of the North American Defense Command and the United States Northern Command, addressed a crowd of reporters and revealed that trials have been ongoing in an attempt to improve the military’s use of data for key decision making. 

The initiative is called the “Global Information Dominance Experiment” (GIDE) which VanHerck has said is showing promising results.  

GIDE was designed to access real-time information that assists military leaders to prepare for enemy action and has the potential to deter conflict before it even starts. 

‘A new era of new and renewed strategic competition’

VanHerck stated in a press conference, “Right now, the threats we face and the pace of change in the geostrategic environment continues to advance at really alarming rates. We’ve entered an era of new and renewed strategic competition, and this time, we’re facing two peer competitors, both nuclear-armed, that are competing against us on a daily basis.”

While VanHerck declined to name the two “peer competitors”,  the nations he is referring to are most likely Russia and China. 

The goal of the GIDE experiments is to “outpace” competitors by accelerating efforts to transform culture, including factoring in homeland defense into “every strategy, every plan, force management, force design decision, as well as aspects of acquisition and budget so that we can deter in competition, de-escalate in crisis and if required, defeat in conflict.” VanHerck said.

VanHerck asserted that by utilizing machine learning and AI they can detect changes in watched parameters that would then trigger an alert supplying the military with information that would allow them to focus on a specific location like, for instance, the Panama Canal. 

“What we’ve seen is the ability to get way further what I call left, left of being reactive to actually being proactive. And I’m talking not minutes and hours, I’m talking days.” VanHerck said, adding that, “The ability to see days in advance creates decision space. Decision space for me as an operational commander [allows us] to potentially posture forces [or] to create deterrence options to provide to the secretary or even the president.”

11 U.S. command units participate

The experiment, conducted by the Pentagon, saw 11 U.S. command units simulate the takeover of crucial sites such as the Panama Canal. 

Vanherck stated that during a simulated operation, data obtained from various sensors both military and civilian, spread out across vast distances, is fed into an artificial intelligence model capable of detecting patterns and providing alerts when signs are detected such as a submarine preparing to leave port. 

Knowing what an adversary is doing prior to them doing it creates time to review strategies and plan within a conflict scenario, which is invaluable and could potentially create opportunities to avoid deadly conflict before it has the opportunity to emerge.

VanHerck stressed that all the information used to feed the artificial intelligence algorithms already existed; it is simply being utilized in a very different manner. 

“Keep in mind that it’s not new information. It’s information that today is just not analyzed and processed until later in the time cycle, if you will,” said VanHerck.

“And all we’re doing is taking and sharing it and making it available sooner. So that our key decision-makers will have options versus being reactive where they may be forced to take some kind of escalation option.” he added.

Growth of automation tools in warfare raises concerns

Using artificial intelligence to better inform military decisions is a primary objective of the Pentagon especially as adversaries escalate their use of the emerging technology but, the growth of automation tools in warfare is raising serious concerns among numerous advocacy groups. 

The GIDE experiments were carried out with numerous other groups within the U.S. Department of Defense and worked on projects including the infamous Project Maven. 

Project Maven sparked controversy in 2018 when Google employees rose up against the company’s involvement in the warfare experiment. At the time, Google was contracted to assist in the development of the technology behind Project Maven.

Project Maven is a Pentagon project that uses machine learning and engineering talent to distinguish people and objects through drone videos.

VanHerck was keen to address concerns over the use of automation in warfare stating that “Humans still make all the decisions in what I’m talking about,” and that, “We don’t have any machines making decisions.”

The technological capabilities trialed in GIDE are already available and ready to be used in the field across multiple combatant commands. The intent of the U.S. Armed Forces is to further improve its ability and, in future, to collaborate with international allies and partners to create a global exchange of real-time intelligence.