Traditional defense contractors have generally benefited from big, multi-year contracts, a strong understanding of the procurement process, and a broad industrial base.
FREMONT, CA: To meet the recommendations of the National Security Commission on Artificial Intelligence (NSCAI) final report, the Department of Defense (DoD) must become a fully AI-ready enterprise by 2025. Without a shift in its usual approach to data and acquisition, it is jeopardizing this goal.
Meanwhile, the need for such a change is both clear and unmistakable. Foreign enemies are already threatening the US's AI dominance. As the defense landscape shifts from hardware-focused to software-focused warfare, AI will play an increasingly crucial role—perhaps even a decisive role. To prepare for that eventual day, we must accelerate and redouble our AI development and deployment efforts.
The existing acquisition method has several flaws, one of which is the lengthy procurement and resource deployment cycle. However, To ensure that our warfighters prepare for any danger, software demands a significantly more elegant acquisition cycle. Moreover, the existing procurement process has evolved through time due to long-standing ties between traditional defense contractors and the Department of Defense—and it must be the Department of Defense that leads the charge to change things. Towards that purpose, it will be essential to revisit and revise the Pentagon's and defense industry's business ecosystems, particularly those whose equipment uses AI or AI-relevant resources such as data.
Traditional defense contractors have generally benefited from big, multi-year contracts, a strong understanding of the procurement process, and a broad industrial base. As a result, traditional military contractors may have tight profit margins during manufacturing. Still, they can exploit the data associated with equipment to raise those profits over time by using the long tail of ongoing production and aftermarket. As a result, they have signed a contract that defines that data as their intellectual property—a situation that is significantly more important in this century than the last.
While the Pentagon recognizes the need to become AI-ready, it will not do so independently or by relying primarily on traditional defense contractors. Instead, the Pentagon must level the playing field for all contractors, including nontraditional firms positioned to deliver transformational capabilities. Moreover, it must create an open ecosystem in which commercially proven technologies from innovative enterprises can contribute to our national defense.
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