Coalition Climate Means Partners Must Be Part of AI, Machine Learning Movement

Allied commanders don’t want to be left behind


The United States does not go to war in a vacuum, so neither should it transition to artificial intelligence (AI) and machine learning technology without coalition partners, according to speakers in a panel discussion Wednesday at GEOINT 2019.

“We don’t fight wars alone anymore,” said RADM (Ret.) Rosanne M. LeVitre, assistant director of national intelligence for IC-DOD coordination/integration with the Office of the Director of National Intelligence, during a session titled, “NATO and Coalition Support to the Warfighter.”

On behalf of NATO, Matt Roper added, “We have to be able to adopt AI, but without leaving anybody behind.”

Roper’s reference was to the infrastructure needed to implement emerging technologies. NATO faces the challenge of varying resources among its 29 members, each of whom have different levels of funding with which to update those resources.

While NATO recently adopted a roadmap to AI, “there is no current clear strategy or policy or platform,” to follow it said Roper, a former UK combat pilot who is now chief of joint ISR Services with the NATO Communications and Information Agency.

LeVitre, an intelligence professional during her Naval career, said she prepped for her remarks by speaking with coalition officers about their thoughts on the new technology paradigm.

“Their feedback … was that we all start together,” she said. “Allied commanders don’t want to be left behind. They want to do their best from the beginning in the push toward AI use.”

Some NATO nations already have their own statements with principles concerning AI and machine learning, defining their defense parameters concerning the technology. Officials from those nations encourage allies to follow suit, according to Roper.

LeVitre added that her sources’ feedback included a statement that AI and machine learning must have “long-haul”—“their term, not mine,” she said—application and require support from “senior-level, tenured” champions.

Roper agreed. “This is a journey we’re in for the long game,” he said.

Key is “building trust” both in the technology and each other, LeVitre said.

Roper shared a historical reference about trust in technology.

In its infancy, he said, AI had an algorithm that “demonstrated that a verifiable image of a panda was actually assessed to be a penguin after the original image was modified with only a 0.03 percent variation in pixel quality.”

“While that may not be important, unless you’re a panda or a penguin, if you transpose that to a military context, you have some serious challenges,” Roper said.

Levity aside, NATO recognizes the hurdles inherent in modern technology adoption, but must overcome them to continue to fight as a coalition.

“We have to establish a short path toward adopting [AI],” Roper said. “We have to create a sandbox where we can come together.”


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