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Five Principles to Advance AI at the Air Force

The Air Force has been on an almost three-year journey to integrate AI into operations and that effort will soon be more apparent as the service declassifies its strategy, Capt. Michael Kanaan, the service’s co-chair for artificial intelligence, said June 26 at the AI World Government conference in Washington, D.C.

“We had to find a way to get us to a place where we could talk about AI in a pragmatic, principled, meaningful way,” said Kanaan, in an account in C4ISRNet.

During his speech, Kanaan laid out five principles that have guided the Air Force with artificial intelligence in the meantime. They are:

1.Technological barriers will be a significant hurdle.

While the service has made it a point to limit technological obstacles, contractors may face higher-priced products geared toward security-driven government programs compared to less expensive commercial programs. A new attitude toward commercial off-the-shelf technology within the service can help, he said.

2.Data needs to be treated like a strategic asset.

“We used to ask the question, if a tree falls in the forest does it make a sound. Well, in the 21st century the real question to ask is was something there to measure it,” he said. He explained this involves looking at when and how to digitize workflows.

3.The Air Force must be able to democratize access to AI.

“This is an opportunity now to say, machine learning as our end state, if done right, should be readable to everyone else,” Kanaan said.

This will involve balancing support and operations and taking into consideration the reality that the demographics of the traditional workforce are going to shift, Kanaan explained.

“Not looking at the top one percent, but focusing on the 99 percent of our workforce,” he said. “The Air Force, of those 450,000 people, 88 percent are millennials [adults under 40].”

Looking to digital natives in the integration process will be valuable because this younger slice of the workforce already has insights into how this technology works, he suggested.

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