Army to award up to $2 million for language-translation software

By Daniel Smoot, Office of Army Prize Competitions and Army Applied SBIR ProgramJune 22, 2023

 Enhancing the Army’s Indo-Pacific relations is a key aspect of its language-translation software solicitation — an investment that aims to utilize artificial intelligence to break communication barriers between the U.S. and Indo-Pacific-based countries. (U.S. Army)
Enhancing the Army’s Indo-Pacific relations is a key aspect of its language-translation software solicitation — an investment that aims to utilize artificial intelligence to break communication barriers between the U.S. and Indo-Pacific-based countries. (U.S. Army) (Photo Credit: U.S. Army) VIEW ORIGINAL

WASHINGTON – The U.S. Army aims to incorporate artificial intelligence-powered, language-translation software to break down communication barriers between the U.S. and Pacific-based countries.

The Army Applied SBIR Program, led by the Office of the Assistant Secretary of the Army for Acquisition, Logistics and Technology, requests small businesses develop machine-translation solutions for lesser-known Indo-Pacific languages. To better communicate and collaborate with previously inaccessible populations, the Army seeks to overcome knowledge losses through advanced natural language processing tools.

“With the emergence of large, AI-based language models such as GPT-3, GPT-4 and BLOOM, the Army can broaden its understanding of languages, populations and cultures across the Pacific,” said Dr. Matt Willis, director of Army Prize Competitions and the Army Applied SBIR Program. “This technology could expand the Army’s Indo-Pacific knowledge and relations beyond current allies, while also advancing customer-support tools throughout several commercial industries.”

For the solicitation, the Army will evaluate capabilities, such as the translation and summarization of intricate information and multi-lingual communications, bolstering its diplomatic and military effectiveness overseas.

SBIR contract awards up to $2 million

The Army Applied SBIR Program will provide up to two businesses Army Small Business Innovation Research Phase I contract awards of up to $250,000 each to develop machine-translation technologies for low-resource, Indo-Pacific languages. Over the anticipated six-month performance period, awardees will gain pivotal access to Soldier touchpoints to gain developmental and assessment-based feedback on technology solutions.

Additionally, Army SBIR will award one company a Phase II contract worth up to $1.5 million over an anticipated 18-month period. During this time, the business will advance research and development efforts for eventual prototyping.

The solicitation enters pre-release on June 21 and runs through July 5. Qualified small businesses can submit proposals between July 6 and August 8, with submissions closing at noon EDT. Applicants must submit proposal packages via the Defense SBIR|STTR Innovation Portal.

The Army Applied SBIR Program awards Phase I contracts to small and nontraditional businesses with solutions that show technical merit, feasibility and commercial potential. The program awards Phase II and Direct to Phase II contracts to those that can address Army needs so they can gain support to mature their technologies.

Small businesses can engage with technical, acquisition and operational subject matter experts. These specialists offer insight into the Army’s technological needs and guidance from the Army research and development ecosystem.

Companies capitalize on this connection by collaborating with technical points of contact who serve as business resources as they mature their technologies for eventual insertion into Army acquisition programs.

The Army Applied SBIR Program releases contract opportunities ad hoc to respond to current and anticipated warfighting technology needs. For eligibility information and a list of open topics, please visit armysbir.army.mil.

The Office of the Assistant Secretary of the Army for Acquisition, Logistics and Technology leverages technologies and capabilities to provide U.S. Soldiers a decisive advantage in any environment by developing, acquiring, fielding and sustaining the world’s finest equipment and services. For more information, visit army.mil/asaalt and follow @ArmyASAALT.