JAIC launches pilot for implementing new DOD AI ethics principles

The JAIC continues its work implementing AI ethics principles by piloting a "Responsible AI Champions" program.
Air Force Lt. Gen. Jack Shanahan, director of the Joint Artificial Intelligence Center, brief the press on the adoption of ethical principles for artificial intelligence, at the Pentagon, Washington, D.C., Feb. 24, 2020. (DoD photo by Lisa Ferdinando)

The Department of Defense‘s Joint Artificial Intelligence Center is bringing together different types of engineers, policymakers and other DOD personnel to serve as “Responsible AI Champions” in support of the Pentagon’s new principles for AI ethics.

The pilot program brings together a “cross-functional group” of personnel from across the department to receive training on AI and DOD’s new ethical principles from JAIC staff who represent different parts of the AI development lifecycle. The intent is that when these trainees go back to their normal jobs, they will be “champions” for AI and the principles.

The model, which was announced through a JAIC blog post, is similar to a pilot Microsoft launched to implement its artificial intelligence governance structure. The JAIC did not say how many people will participate in the pilot program.

“The goal is to learn from this pilot so that we can develop a more robust and comprehensive program that can be implemented across the DOD,” Lt. Cmdr. Arlo Abrahamson, a JAIC spokesman, told FedScoop.


When the training is complete, the first cohort will also serve as “the organization’s eyes and ears on the ground to identify new implementation opportunities as well as escalate any concerns.”

“As the Champions advise, educate, and inform their immediate team members, it will create muscle memory for all team members to initiate and engage in a broader dialogue around the principles and the technology,” the blog post says.

While the DOD’s AI hub has publicly shared its five ethics principles — responsible, ethical, traceable, reliable, governable — the implementation of them so far has been less visible. The JAIC has yet to publish a set of implementation guidance for its broad principles. In February, the JAIC hired a policy team specific to implementing AI ethics. The department also created a subcommittee comprised of members across the DOD who will work on AI ethics policy and implementing it across the DOD. The blog post said the subcommittee, which is a part of an AI working group, met twice in March.

The JAIC is advising industry partners on how to implement the principles through the center’s first request for proposals for the “Joint Warfighting National Mission Initiative.” The JAIC declined to share what guidance it is giving contactors. The RFP was not released publicly.

“(O)ur policy team would provide guidance throughout the entire acquisition and development process on areas that we expect vendors to comply as it relates to AI ethical principles,” Abrahamson said. The blog post said that the principles were included in the statement of work section of the RFP.

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