DEC 27, 2021
AUSA NEWS: Army CIO insists U.S. still leader in artificial intelligence
OCT 13, 2021
Former chief software officer of the Air Force Nicolas Chaillan — who wrote an explosive LinkedIn post explaining his abrupt resignation in September — has been making waves with his critical portrayal of the Pentagon’s information technology apparatus.
Chaillan’s latest jab to the U.S. government, as quoted in a recent interview with the Financial Times, was to claim the nation has already lost the fight in artificial intelligence to China.
“We have no competing fighting chance against China in 15 to 20 years. Right now, it’s already a done deal; it is already over in my opinion,” he said in the story published Oct. 10.
However, the Army’s chief information officer Dr. Raj Iyer said that’s nonsense.
“It’s absolutely not true,” he told National Defense Oct. 13 during a media roundtable at the Association of the United States Army’s annual conference in Washington, D.C. “There's only so much we can say in an unclassified setting, but for everybody that has access to classified information in terms of ... the strength of our AI capabilities, and how we actually use them every day — they would ... not make that comment.”
Maj. Gen. Matthew Easley, director for cybersecurity and the chief information security officer in the office of the Army chief information officer, said there is only one area where China surpasses the United States in artificial intelligence: the digital surveillance of its citizens.
“They do a really good job maintaining control of the people using AI, and obviously we don't do that [in the] United States,” he said.
The Pentagon, intelligence community and U.S. industry have the best artificial intelligence technology in the world, he said.
Iyer noted that the Army has made a lot of progress in this area and has been able to scale the technology across its 31-plus-4 “signature system” modernization priorities.
“Every one of them has AI in it,” he said. “It is built in from the get-go. It is how we're doing business. It is not something that's off on the side. … It's fully integrated into our platforms and our strategy.”
Meanwhile, another criticism Chaillan flagged in his LinkedIn post was not enough Air Force investment into new IT technologies and a lack of attention from leadership.
“There have been continuous and exhausting fights to chase after funding,” he said.
Last month, Air Force Secretary Frank Kendall said at a press conference that the service has been responding to his issues and addressing them.
Iyer noted that from his perspective, no such problems exist within the Army’s IT department.
“We're well positioned and I'm not just, you know, drinking the Kool-Aid here,” he said. “Our secretary and the chief … have made this a strategic priority.”
The Army has a $15 billion budget set aside for IT, he noted. “Money is not the problem.”
However, the service will have to make some tough choices as it pursues joint all-domain command and control and cloud computing technologies, Iyer said.
“We're going to have to divest off some of our on-premise data centers,” he said. “You can’t have data centers that we spend hundreds of millions of dollars on and one cloud at the same time. And so that is my job to do and we're doing that pretty well.”