AUSA-Pittsburgh hosts Artificial Intelligence Symposium featuring AI2C, industry

By Army Futures Command, Artificial Intelligence and Integration CenterApril 13, 2022

PITTSBURGH, Pa. –The Association of the United States Army- Fort Pitt Chapter hosted representatives from across the Army modernization enterprise for two days of collaborative discussions related to the ethical implementation of artificial intelligence, autonomous systems and robotics across the modernization priorities. The event brought together senior leaders from various fields of AI and autonomous systems.

The symposium was kicked off with remarks by Dr. Rory Cooper, the Civilian Aide to the Secretary of the Army, Distinguished Professor and founder of the Human Engineering Research Lab at the University of Pittsburgh. A bioengineer and inventor, Dr. Cooper emphasized the longstanding contributions of local innovators and the pivotal role Pittsburgh has played in national defense.

Lt. Gen. James Richardson, Acting Commanding General of U.S. Army Futures Command, was the symposium’s keynote speaker focusing on the the Army modernization enterprise.

During his remarks, Richardson reflected on the lessons learned during the Army’s experimentation at Project Convergence . “We have learned that AI, robotics, and autonomy will fundamentally change the character of warfare. AI in particular will allow us to see and act faster, providing decision dominance to our commanders in the field in order to achieve overmatch.”

Richardson continued that cutting-edge technology pilots or prototypes and delivering integrated systems to the warfighter is, and has always been, the end goal for AFC’s Artificial Intelligence Integration Center. “AI2C has done this leveraging the fundamental model of Army Futures Command. This model embeds Army personnel with existing, robust ecosystems that drive innovation.”

Workforce Development

 “People are our number one priority. We need to listen, learn and act to enable the Army to evolve and continue to safeguard the nation.“       - Hon. Christine Wormuth, Secretary of the Army.

Successfully developing and operationalizing AI for a modern Army starts with our people. Not only trust and endorsement from Army Senior Leaders, but also leveraging the talented Soldiers who can operate, design, and develop the technology. The AI Integration Center, in partnership with Carnegie Mellon University, addresses this enterprise-wide requirement through the systematic development of unique professional educational opportunities for Soldiers and Department of the Army Civilians.

Brig. Gen. David Trybula, Deputy Commanding General for U.S. Army Combat Capabilities Development Command (DEVCOM), provided his expertise in educational programs alongside Mr. Mark Phillips, Director of Non-Material Capabilities at the AI Integration Center, to a Workforce Development panel. Emphasizing the need for a robust campaign of learning, both panelists provided their lessons learned while answering questions on the implementation and scaling of educational programs across the Army enterprise.

Emphasizing the need for a holistic approach, “People are foundational to the success of Army Modernization,” said Mr. Phillips. “Not just from our Commissioned Officers and Warrant Officers, but leveraging expertise from the NCO and junior enlisted populations as well; and just as critical, from a wide breadth of military occupational specialties.”

Bridging the Gap

 Once gaps and needs are identified, a key aspect of Army modernization is interfacing with best-of-class technology innovators and researchers from across the country to help bridge those gaps. Both academia and industry provide solutions critical to modernization, with the symposium giving the Army a unique opportunity to collaborate and leverage expertise across multiple disciplines.

Solutions for many of the Army’s needs can be found through collaborative efforts with academic researchers and experts. Bringing together academic partners of the AI Integration Center, the symposium education panel included representatives from the University of Southern California, the University of Wisconsin-Madison, the University of Pittsburgh and Carnegie Mellon University (CMU). The panel focused on the role of academia with regards to technological development, with emphasis on the human element and education piece.

The symposium combined industry leaders like IBM, with leaders in academia , while providing a stage for local technology companies and start-ups as well. As discussed by Richardson, leveraging the innovation leaders and ecosystem is critically important for maximizing the benefits of the locating AI2C in Pittsburgh.

Moderated by Pittsburgh Technology Council Vice President Brian Kennedy, the industry panel included Near Earth Autonomy CEO Sanjiv Singh, Ph.D., Gecko Robotics CEO Jake Loosararian, and Reinforced Ventures Investment Partner Liam Krut.

 AI Developmental Tracks

Upon completion of general session panels, the symposium was separated into three Expert Tracks of AI modernization and Multi-Domain Operations (MDO), including: Operations, Sustainment and Medical.

As Napoleon once said, “Amateurs discuss tactics, professionals discuss logistics.” The sustainment track emphasized the critical need to increase efficiency of Army Logistical operations as well as the need to enhance the proactivity of Army Sustainment. As one of the leading multifunctional logisticians in the Army, Maj. Gen. Mark Simerly, the Commanding General of the U.S. Army Combined Arms Support Command, led the Sustainment Track of discussions for the symposium. From his unique perspective across the DOTMLPF (doctrine, organization, training, material, leadership and education, personnel and facilities) modernization construct, Simerly discussed much of what he sees as the future of sustainment and the role of AI. “Delivering sustainment modernization,” Simerly explained, “requires a holistic approach for sustainable innovative outcomes." That holistic approach, as emphasized through the two days of collaboration, requires a multi-disciplinary team and not just computer programmers or sustainment planners.

The Sustainment Track concluded with the expert discussions led by representatives of the Sustainment Capabilities Development and Integration Directorate and from the acquisitions perspective of the Program Executive Office Enterprise Information Systems.

The Medical Track provided an opportunity to discuss applications of AI and Autonomous Systems in the military medical field, including joint programs from the University of Pittsburgh and CMU. Combining world leaders from both the machine learning and medical fields, Ronald Poropatich, M.D., from the University of Pittsburgh Center for Military Medicine and Dr. Artur Dubrawski, Ph.D., from CMU’s Robotics Institute and Computer Science Department discussed the application of AI in lifesaving medical applications.

The final developmental track focused on modernizing Operations. This track provided an opportunity to discuss the efforts of multiple AFC Cross-Functional Teams and Combat Capabilities Development Command (DEVCOM) while laying out challenges to modernization in their respective disciplines.

Presentations from representatives and leaders from Next Generation Combat Vehicles CFT, DEVCOM Ground Vehicle System Center, Long Range Precision Fires CFT, Future Vertical Lift CFT, and Network CFT highlighted an understanding of modernization efforts from across Army Futures Command.

ASI Presentation

To kick off day two, Richardson and AFC Cmd. Sgt. Maj. Brian Hester, hosted an Additional Skill Identifier (ASI) presentation ceremony for those Soldiers trained in the development of Artificial Intelligence. The first of its kind, ten Soldiers from the AI Factory and Technician program were awarded three distinctive ASIs, including D3- Data Analyst, D4 Data Engineer (both requiring graduate level degrees in the field), and 2V- AI Technician (awarded upon completion of the AI Technician program). The ASI will allow the Army to better sort and align talent where it is most beneficial to both the organization and the individual, while leveraging their unique expertise.

Hester said during the ceremony, “We need people who understand Artificial Intelligence, and are trained to employ it in an effective and ethical manner at the edge of where we are tactically. That is why the Army, through AFC, stood up the center here at CMU.”

Continuing the Dialogue

Dr. Doug Matty, Director of Army AI Capabilities, said during his remarks, “this will be an ongoing engagement and dialogue, we all have the opportunity to learn from each other as we move forward.” Continuing with the momentum of collaborative efforts during the symposium, two days of discussion is just the beginning. Moving forward with the whole team is pivotal to the successful implementation of Artificial Intelligence across the Army’s modernization priorities and beyond.

To emphasize the importance of events like the AI Symposium, Richardson noted, “Events like this are great. It brings everyone together so the whole can be greater than the sum of the parts. It allows the sharing of information and it broadens our network of knowledge.” That sharing of information is critical for the development of technology at the speed required by a modern Army.

But the whole team must include all those with influence on progress. As the symposium came to a close, local policymakers were also given an opportunity to emphasize the importance of including all stakeholders in the conversation. Allegheny County Executive Rich Fitzgerald presented closing comments, highlighting the ongoing critical relationships in the region. Speaking to the AI Center and DoD attendees, he said, “You are in the best place for AI and robotics. The great part about what we [Pittsburgh] do, is that we work together.” Concluding his speech with historical context of ongoing relationships, “Pittsburgh has a long tradition serving the military and the defense of this nation, going back to our steel days… [during WWII] producing more steel than Germany and Japan combined.”

For the AI Integration Center and across the Army modernization enterprise, leveraging the local expertise and industrious character of Pittsburghers and its robust technological ecosystem is now just as critical as then.