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When I read the following bill I wondered about 2 things.

  1. Why the Director of the Office of Management and Budget assigned with getting it done?  Maybe someone hopes that OMB can find OFPP.
  2. Why no DoD?  DoD is purposely left out.  

Artificial Intelligence Training for the Acquisition Workforce Act or the AI Training Act.

Press Release:  Legislation Would Require Training for Federal Employees Who Procure and Manage Artificial Intelligence Technology to Ensure It Is Used Safely and Ethically.

I assume this is only window dressing for the Congressional August recess.

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  • bob7947 changed the title to Artificial Intelligence Training for the Acquisition Workforce
10 hours ago, bob7947 said:

Why the Director of the Office of Management and Budget assigned with getting it done?  Maybe someone hopes that OMB can find OFPP.

It's my impression that OMB has closed OFPP in all but name. To the best of my knowledge the new president has not nominated a new administrator.  The last president didn't get around to it until about two years into his term. It is a very low priority appointment.

The executive branch does not understand that our government is helpless without contracts and contracting. Procurement policy and procedure are not important to presidents unless one of them or Congress wants to use procurement dollars for social program purposes.  And DOD, the big buyer/spender, does not want anyone else making procurement policy for them.

The OFPP Act has been subverted. Forget the OFPP. It's dead.

Anyway, why take a class if you want to learn about AI? Just buy a book.

But if you simply have to take a class, MIT is offering one online for only $3,600 or so. Starts tomorrow. Lasts six weeks. "Artificial Intelligence: Implications for Business Strategy." Ask your agency to pay for it. (You can read a good book about AI in less than six weeks.)

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This is interesting. I'm finishing up The Kill Chain: Defending America in the Future of High-Tech Warfare, by Christian Brose (former Staff Director of the Armed Service Committee and Senior Policy Advisor to John McCain). The author's primary point of attack is how DoD needs to more AI and less platform-based systems, and needs them yesterday to compete with China. I guess someone is listening, even if this probably represents a fraction of a fraction of what the author's calling for. 

Not to hijack the thread, but I'm interested to hear if anyone else has read this book, and what their thoughts are on DoD's alleged stubbornness in adopting AI. 

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21 hours ago, bob7947 said:

Vern:

It took me a short period of time to realize the proposed legislation was less than a joke.  In looking at the OFPP Act a few minutes ago, I happened upon a 1979 Testimony from the Deputy Comptroller General on GAO's initial look at the accomplishments of OFPP.  The testimony should explain what it was about.

Thanks, Bob!  Brought back several memories. 

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On 8/3/2021 at 4:44 PM, Mike Twardoski said:

I'm interested to hear if anyone else has read this book, and what their thoughts are on DoD's alleged stubbornness in adopting AI

I read Kill Chain and found it relevant and interesting (I originally was going to say "I enjoyed it" but that's not quite right). I don't recall coming away with the impression that the DOD was necessarily against adopting AI (although within narrower areas it seems like pilots tend to think that aircraft need pilots, and tankers tend to think that the military needs tanks), but rather that congress, the military, and industry (all "in risk-averse bureaucracies that seem inclined to resist and stymie change at every turn") are too wedded to the idea of improving "platforms" instead of making more effective kill chains. I do think that there are plenty of people and organizations outside the DOD who are very concerned about including AI in the kill chain, and explaining why AI could make war more ethical, not less ethical, seemed to be a major focus of the book.

The book has a great explanation and critique of the defense acquisition system; here's a key explanation for the situation for each major player.

DOD: "The issue is not a lack of authority to go faster or take more risk, but that those who must exercise those authorities, bear those risks, and be accountable for the outcomes rarely use the authorities they have. [...] Those who do make decisions often lack the authority and incentives to make riskier decisions to get better outcomes."

Congress: "Members of congress cannot ignore the things and issues that are likely to win or lose them votes. [...] The future does not vote, but the present certainly does. [...] Congress passed law after law to create new processes, offices, paperwork requirements, and official homework checkers to ensure that some bad thing that happened once would never happen again." (maybe he was paraphrasing from Vern Edwards “Frictionless Acquisition” Nash & Cibinic Report Sep 2020 Volume 34 Issue 9 “The principal acquisition statutes […] reflect congressional responses to various issues that have annoyed politicians from time to time.”)

Industry: "[When there were no longer any existential threats and congress and the DOD began to focus on transparency, efficiency etc.] "The US government created incentives for defense contractors to do the wrong things, and that is often what happened. [...] Companies adapted. [...] Many companies resented making these changes, which they felt forced into. [...] Many of these major moves represented gains in efficiency, but often at a cost to the effectiveness and speed of innovation."

So I felt like there were two major takeaways from the book:

1) We need kill chains with cutting edge AI instead of platforms if we want our military to remain relevant;

2) "It ultimately comes down to incentives" which are currently: short-term focus on spending money in their districts and avoiding the next procurement scandal from congress incentivized by voters; risk-averse compliance-focused behavior from acquisition professionals incentivized both by congress and internal leadership; and an industrial base that gives both parties what they ask for (replacement platforms and auditable accounting systems).

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On 8/10/2021 at 12:31 PM, Witty_Username said:

I read Kill Chain and found it relevant and interesting (I originally was going to say "I enjoyed it" but that's not quite right). I don't recall coming away with the impression that the DOD was necessarily against adopting AI (although within narrower areas it seems like pilots tend to think that aircraft need pilots, and tankers tend to think that the military needs tanks), but rather that congress, the military, and industry (all "in risk-averse bureaucracies that seem inclined to resist and stymie change at every turn") are too wedded to the idea of improving "platforms" instead of making more effective kill chains. I do think that there are plenty of people and organizations outside the DOD who are very concerned about including AI in the kill chain, and explaining why AI could make war more ethical, not less ethical, seemed to be a major focus of the book.

You summed it up far better than me! 

I finished the book last week with the sense that another contributing factor in the AI & military capabilities gap is the discord between DoD and Silicon Valley. That's certainly concerning. A recent issue of Contract Management contained an article about the Air Force putting some of their procurement folks into pseudo-internships with leading tech companies. Perhaps that is what it will take: greater active engagement, at least at the DoD/Industry level. 

Now all you have to do is fix Congress. 

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