DOD’s Ethical Principles Challenges for AI

The Department of Defense issued five Ethical Principles for Artificial Intelligence(AI) this February. They are Responsible, Equitable, Traceable, Reliable and Governable. The DoD AI principles were developed by the Defense Intelligence Board. The recommendations were developed over a 15-month period by AI leaders in government and the private sector and were based on existing Law of War principles and statutes. They are designed to address new ethical issues raised by AI.

The DoD General Counsel, Paul C. Ney Jr., has commented on the importance of applying the existing principles of the law of war to new legal issues and in particular AI saying that ““The advantage of artificial intelligence and other autonomy-related emerging technologies is the use of software or machine control of the systems rather than manual control by a human being.”

DoD has established an AI policy team in the Pentagon’s Joint Artificial Intelligence Center (JAIC) under the command of Air Force Lt. Gen. Jack Shanahan. Shanahan quickly hired attorney Alka Patel to head the policy team implementing the principles. Patel had been the executive director of the Risk & Regulatory Services Innovation Center at Carnegie Mellon University.

Implementation of the DoD principles

Among the first steps taken by using the new DoD principles at JAIC by Patel and her colleagues:

  • Including the principles as applicable standards in requests for proposals, including a May award to Booz Allen Hamilton.
  • JAIC participation, through Patel, in a Responsible AI subcommittee, part of a larger DoD working group writing a broader DoD policy document.
  • Establishment of pilot program, “Responsible AI Champions,” bringing together a broad group inside JAIC to look at the principles throughout the entire cycle of AI programs.
  • Early work on the creation of a Data Governance Council within the U.S. government and other countries.

Issues to be looked

Issues to be looked at carefully while applying ethical principles to real-world business and national security issues.

  • Clarification of the terms used in the principles, including, but not limited to, what is “appropriate,” in the principle of responsibility and “unintended bias” in the second principle of equity.
  • As acknowledged by Ney, Stuart Russell and many others, what will be the scope of human control of AI involved in military applications?
  • As also broadly discussed, what will be the scope of ultimate human accountability for AI decision-making?
  • And finally, the overarching problem about “moral machines”: “what to think about machines that think.”

Implications for the private sector

For the Defense contractors and the private sector, the implications are immense. The Pentagon is continuing to litigate issues regarding its $10 billion cloud computing contract between Microsoft (which won the contract in 2019) and Amazon and others, which are contesting the contract.

References:

https://www.defense.gov/Newsroom/Releases/Release/Article/2091996/dod-adopts-ethical-principles-for-artificial-intelligence/

The Department of Defense plans to modernize acquisition following the impacts of COVID-19

Microsoft wins DoD's controversial JEDI Cloud contract | Federal News  Network

In the midst of the social, economic and political impacts the pandemic, COVID-19, has brought to the American population; the Department of Defense has committed to updating its acquisition system for the post-pandemic era. Doing so by implementing the DoD Directive 5000.01 on September 8, 2020, and by so adapting the departments roles and responsibilities for its acquisition framework. As some businesses have adjusted to the pandemic with, flexible scheduling and teleworking, so too has the Department of Defense. Their plans include digital engineering and software modernization.

            This follows the trend of the federal government’s acquisition modernization, using the new acquisition platform SAM.gov as reference, the Acquisition strategies of the United States government are all moving towards increased digitalization.

            The spur for digitalization stems from realizations created by covid-19. The Department of Defense believes it has demonstrated its capabilities of responsible spending, Under Secretary of Defense for acquisition and sustainment, Ellen Lord, said during the September 9 Defense News Conference, “COVID gave us a burning platform to demonstrate we could be very responsible in terms of taxpayer dollars, very responsible in terms of security of warfighter, but move at speed of relevance to get things done”. This confidence is a result of the department’s ability to absorb the adverse effects COVID-19 has had on its subcontractor businesses, be it production or giving employees time off. Since the pandemic hit, the Defense Management Agency and Defense Logistics Agency have been tracking around 22,000 companies that the Department of Defense works with. And while the DoD has managed to assist in subduing those effects, Ellen Lord believes “they’re going to start showing up. soon”. She later followed up this statement within the press conference saying “When we get to the point where we’re having payments and incentive fees and award fees earned, and if we haven’t done the deliveries, that’s where you’re going to see the hit”. Lord said companies should account for the hits they have taken during the period, March 15 through September 15, following which they should submit proposals showing those impacts for The Department of Defense to assess at once.

            The projected time period for this accounting is six months, Lord said. Roughly half the time will be for the RFPs to flow down the supply chain to subcontractors. The second half will be when the Department of Defense reviews all proposals to determine what may be reimbursable. All proposals would be examined before any spending occurs, as opposed to a standard que’d system. The DoD has been calling for more money for contractors since early summer 2020. The expected amount would be between $10 and $20 Billion USD.

https://www.bls.gov/opub/mlr/2020/article/ability-to-work-from-home.htm