ABERDEEN PROVING GROUND, Md. — In its objective to drive transformational advances in artificial intelligence, the U.S. Army is bringing together diverse experts in military and academia to better assess how systems using artificial intelligence and assistive automation, or AI/AA, operate.
The U.S. Army Combat Capabilities Development Command, or DEVCOM, Analysis Center — known as DAC — has signed a cooperative agreement with Northeastern University to leverage their respective expertise to develop an analytic framework for evaluating automated or partially automated systems employing AI. Signed in January of this year, this five-year cooperative agreement will allow DAC and Northeastern University’s Kostas Research Institute, known as KRI, as well as various additional universities, to ultimately improve the performance and effectiveness of the U.S. armed forces.
“Having a sound analytic framework is critical to the successful incorporation of AI/AA within the Army,” said DAC’s Chief Scientist, Dr. Thomas Stadterman. “The universities are focused on researching techniques for assessing AI/AA while the government will incorporate that research into frameworks to analyze and assess AI/AA-enabled systems in an Army context.”
In February, DAC co-hosted a two-day technical kickoff event with KRI to discuss research objectives and goals. DAC worked with principal investigators from Northeastern University, Worcester Polytechnic Institute, the University of Pittsburgh, the University of Georgia, Temple University and the University of South Florida.
DAC and the universities will work together to provide an integrated set of metrics to qualify and quantify AI/AA effectiveness in different conditions and environments. The effort includes six multi-year objectives to bring about disruptive innovation, including mission effectiveness analysis, ontology for decision making, automatic target recognition, human systems integration, cyber resilience/electronic warfare threat defense and assessing autonomous maneuver/mobility.
“We’re developing a body of evidence to encompass all the different types of AI-enabled capabilities the Army is expecting in the future,” Stadterman said. “We’re trying to understand how to best analyze and assess these capabilities in an Army operational context — characterizing the scenario, the threat and the environment — to include the physical layout and the electromagnetic environment.”
Based on the discussions from the kick-off meeting, DAC and the universities produced an annual performance plan to enable funding awards for the nine universities contributing to the six multi-year objectives. DAC will continue to support the principal investigators' research efforts by providing direction, documentation and analytic expertise to enable the primary tasks of their projects.
According to Senior Vice Provost for Research and Chairman of the Board at KRI, Dr. David E. Luzzi, this unique partnership is building an evidence-backed understanding of AI/AA on a battlefield while laying the groundwork for future collaboration.
“KRI brings a multi-discipline approach to DAC’s AI/AA framework development, integrating the contributions of a varied set of engineering, social science, computing, mathematic, psychology and design fields. We are bolstered by the unique contributions of our partners and collaborators, as well as the capabilities of our incubated technology startups to shape and even challenge our research paths,” said Luzzi. “Additionally, Northeastern’s new Arlington, Virginia campus will house high-tech research laboratories, to include a robotics laboratory, making it the perfect space to host collaborative working sessions with DEVCOM.”
This cooperative agreement also has applications beyond DAC: it deepens and broadens the AI/AA academic body of knowledge to and from which professors, researchers and scientists can contribute and learn.
“As proposed technologies are vetted and assessed against this framework, the AI/AA learning curve flattens for not just the Army, but for the broader DOD and industry,” Luzzi said. “This body of knowledge will serve the Army, DOD, and industry product development initiatives well as the scientific community will better understand military needs through our research.”
DAC’s Zachary Steelman, lead of two of the multi-year objectives — mission effectiveness and ontology for decision making — emphasizes that DAC’s forward-looking outreach to the science and technology community prior to system fielding also grows the DOD body of knowledge.
DAC’s expert analytic capabilities provide insight early in the system’s development process to better inform Army decisions. “Our modeling and simulation and mission effectiveness analysis allow the Army to be more efficient at producing technology that positively impacts the Soldier, rather than developing technologies in a vacuum, without assessing how they play out in the battlefield.”
While this agreement provides a conduit for researchers and analysts to exchange technical expertise to help the Army better understand the performance, effectiveness and impact of emerging technologies, the analytic framework for AI/AA encompasses all of DAC’s mission: delivering a range of analysis across the entire life cycle to ensure readiness today and a more lethal future force tomorrow.
The DEVCOM Analysis Center is one of DEVCOM’s eight science and technology centers. The U.S. Army’s largest in-house analytical capability, DAC delivers objective analysis, experimentation and data to ensure readiness and inform modernization decisions.