Applications of AI in the Intelligence Community and National Security

Published: September 12, 2019

Artificial Intelligence/Machine LearningInformation TechnologyIntelligenceResearch and Development

The potential application of Artificial Intelligence (AI) is vast, but adoption is still in its infancy. These were key messages from last week’s Intelligence and National Security Summit held at the National Harbor by AFCEA, and the Intelligence and National Security Alliance (INSA).

Speakers from intelligence and defense agencies, as well as academia, spoke about AI research, initiatives and applications in numerous sessions during the two-day event. In a panel discussion devoted to AI, Brett Vaughan of the Office of Naval Research shared, “The current AI challenges in the Navy are less technical and are more adoption and application. Potential for application is vast. The key question becomes where do we focus? Where do we place our bets? Where do we focus time, energy, money and resources?”  

During the same panel discussion, Dr. Matt Gaston of Carnegie Mellon University commented, “What’s exciting in AI is that it’s been around for decades, but as far as an engineering initiative it’s not mature yet for design, build, integrate and evolve.” 

EP Matthews, Chief of End-User Services at DIA, believes it’s the value of data and what issues are we looking to solve with AI. “We’re still in the infancy stage of adoption,” said Matthews. Questions his organization asks are, “Can I make sense of the data? Can I find a correlation that a human wouldn’t even think about? Can I make an assessment of this large amount of data?”

During another panel discussion Honorable Kari Bingen, DOD’s Under Secretary of Defense for Intelligence, stated “We’re at AI infancy. Machine learning is just the beginning.” Referring specifically to Project Maven, Bingen said, “It’s about getting the minimal viable product in the field.” DIA Deputy Director Suzanne White remarked that the vast amount of increasing data and the “exquisiteness of the data is a challenge.” Her agency is in the process of expanding the data environment for analysts with the hope of leveraging AI in the future to tackle this issue.

The founding Director for the Center for Security and Emerging Technology at Georgetown University, Jason Matheny, believes that R&D in AI is critical and is very dependent on government funding.  He cited IARPA research on how to combine human judgments and AI to make decisions. In his opinion, another area ripe for federal R&D is in addressing AI security risks. 

Contractors can expect heightened growth and opportunity in the federal AI market over the next several years, particularly in areas that will allow agencies to analyze ever-increasing volumes of data more efficiently and effectively.  As conference speakers noted, agencies are looking to solve problems and increase mission effectiveness. Business development efforts should be focused on solutions and outcomes, not touting specific technologies.