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US military wants $29.8m for IT to boost AI intel analysis

Data from embedded sensors, from in the sea to in space, could be used with ML to detect next-gen weapons

The US Northern Command, the military command group designated to protect North America from attack, has lobbied Congress for $29.8m to expand its IT infrastructure to better support machine-learning technologies.

The request is part of the command's unfunded priorities list for fiscal year 2023, a wish list of all the gear and tech US NORTHCOM and the North American Aerospace Defense Command (NORAD) reckons is needed for building and testing new weapons or operating monitoring systems, totaling some $135 million.

The requested IT funding will, we're told, be used to procure cloud computing infrastructure to run AI workloads from US NORTHCOM and NORAD's joint operations center, according to Defense News this week. The goal is to build smart cloud-hosted systems that can process incoming data, generate insight and decision options, and make this intelligence available across the Dept of Defense for leaders to consider.

"Maintaining our strategic advantage begins with improving domain awareness globally, including in the approaches to North America," General Glen VanHerk, US NORTHCOM and NORAD's commander, said in a statement before the Senate Armed Forces in late March.

"Incorporating artificial intelligence and machine learning into existing capabilities will allow users to pull needed information from existing data sets and share that data with leaders at all levels to expand their decision space and options necessary to achieve desirable outcomes."

For instance, both military commands want to create a network of sensors to detect and track potential threats on land, air, sea, and space. These sensors could detect hypersonic weapons and cruise missiles from countries testing their military capabilities, or be used for gathering intelligence. The data from all these sensors would be processed by machine-learning algorithms and automatically aggregated to report potential threats, all in manner far more efficient than using an army of human analysts for all these sensor readings.

"To unlock the full value and potential of our intelligence and sensor networks, information must be integrated, appropriately classified, and rapidly shared to allow commands, agencies, allies, and partners to collaborate globally in real time and across all domains," VanHerk continued. 

US NORTHCOM and NORAD claim to have demonstrated the potential to use AI to process sensor data as part of its Global Information Dominance Experiments (GIDE), an initiative to create a platform for the Department of Defense to collaborate and share information during critical missions.

"This experiment occurred with the intent to bring all the combatant commands together, to place a demand signal on the department to move quicker down the path of domain awareness, information dominance and decision superiority," VanHerck previously said. "All competition through conflict today is global and all domain in nature, and the tools gave us the ability to collaborate with all of the combatant commands in near real-time across all domains."

But before the experiments can be fully put into practice, Congress will have to pay for cloud computing infrastructure before data pipelines and AI algorithms can be set up to deliver critical information to the military.

The Register has asked US NORTHCOM for comment. ®

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