The Trump administration is keenly interested in using artificial intelligence to help the military perform some of its key tasks more effectively and cheaply, the Defense Department’s second most senior official told defense reporters in Washington on Tuesday.
Deputy Secretary of Defense Patrick Shanahan, a former Boeing aircraft executive, said artificial intelligence or AI — the use of computer systems to perform tasks that normally require human intelligence — could aid the department, for example, in making better use of the voluminous intelligence data it collects.
He also said AI could enhance military logistics, the task of supplying the right parts and gear to soldiers and maintenance crews at the right time. And it could facilitate wiser decision-making about providing health care for service members, producing future cost savings.
Already, the Pentagon is preparing to create a Center for Excellence — possibly within the next six months — that would pull together multiple existing military programs related to AI applications and bring added coherence and impetus to the work, he and other senior defense officials have said.
Shanahan’s remarks to the Defense Writers Group came on the same day, however, that the Rand Corporation — a longstanding Pentagon contractor — issued a public warning that the application of AI to military tasks may have worrisome downsides. Among them: the possibility that AI could heighten the risk of nuclear war, by subtly undermining one of the key pillars of nuclear deterrence.