Military Cloud for Creating Artificial Intelligence Takes Shape

  • Deloitte to partner with companies on commercial technology
  • Prototype is already handling initial AI projects

The Pentagon’s artificial intelligence center is beginning to build out cloud platforms that could allow developers across the military to create uses for the cutting-edge technology.

A prototype of the cloud is being built with the Deloitte consulting firm following an August contract worth $80 million. The Joint Artificial Intelligence Center has already moved its main initiatives such as preventive maintenance and assistance with humanitarian relief, over to the system, Nand Mulchandani, the center’s acting director, said.

The center has named the AI development space the Joint Common Foundation and says it will eventually be supported by a variety of clouds in the department, including the Air Force’s Cloud One and the contentious Joint Enterprise Defense Infrastructure, or JEDI, which has been awarded to Microsoft Corp. despite a legal fight with competitor Amazon.com Inc.

“This development environment is built on top of a cloud platform, so the JCF is not a cloud platform but it will ride on top of JEDI and actually other cloud environments,” Mulchandani said during a Pentagon briefing Thursday. “So we are not envisioning this as a monolithic central system that is the only system that everyone will use.”

Photographer: Staff/AFP/Getty Images
The U.S. Pentagon

The development system and cloud platforms are key initiatives as the Pentagon races to stay ahead of Chinese and Russian AI efforts. The system will be populated with development tools including open-source and commercial products, he said. Hundreds of interested companies participated in a department artificial intelligence symposium this week and could be involved in creating the JCF.

“The point is Deloitte will actually be working with industry partners,” Mulchandani said. “We believe and want all of those products to be deployed through the JCF so that our developer community can actually have access to the best tech that is out there.”

The Deloitte contract is only a month old, and Mulchandani said work is just beginning. The AI center will release timelines for completing the system in the near future, he said.

Russia and China are pursuing artificial intelligence for cutting-edge surveillance and autonomous weapons systems, Defense Secretary Mark Esper warned in a keynote address to the AI symposium on Wednesday.

The Joint Common Foundation being developed will allow the military to more quickly test and field new capabilities, he said.

“The goal is to make AI tools and data accessible across the force, which will help synchronize projects and reduce redundancy, among many other benefits,” Esper said.

To contact the reporter on this story: Travis J. Tritten at ttritten@bgov.com

To contact the editors responsible for this story: Robin Meszoly at rmeszoly@bgov.com; Jodie Morris at jmorris@bgov.com

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