All domain, networks / Cyber
WASHINGTON – A proposed joint autonomy office within the Pentagon’s Chief Digital and Artificial Intelligence Office (CDAO) could help the department coordinate and advance its adoption of autonomous technologies, according to the vice chairman of the House Armed Services Committee.
And while the creation of a new office within the CDAO, an organization that arose less than a year ago, raises the question of whether it contributes to bureaucracy within the department or just how much power the office would have, Rep. Rob Wittman (R-VA), said the office he envisioned in the legislation would act as a single place for how DoD sources and directs its autonomous technology efforts and policies.
“We’ve seen in the Pentagon where there’s been a move toward autonomy at a faster pace than has happened in the past. But as in, again, part of the element of any large organization and bureaucracy, it’s still very fragmented,” wittman said today during a keynote speech at Applied Intuition’s Nexus 23 event. “If we’re going to have unity and purpose, it has to be in one place… This bill allows that to happen.”
The Autonomous Systems Adoption and Policy Act, introduced by Wittman and Rep. Dutch Ruppersberger, D-Md.on May 9, seeks to establish a joint autonomy office within the CDAO “to accelerate the development and delivery of autonomy technology and programs for United States military operations.”
According to the bill, the office would specifically provide a platform for testing autonomy for all domains, a DoD-wide framework for classifying autonomous capabilities and ways to “standardize the planning, resourcing, and integration efforts with respect to autonomous capabilities for today and future systems across the DoD.”
Wittman said the legislation will also help DoD ensure that it applies autonomous technologies in the right ways, rather than “just being applied in a patchy way.”
“We want to make sure it’s put out there across the board,” he said. “Autonomy has great promise in many different systems and we don’t want it to be limited by how one service views autonomy … So this opens the aperture for autonomy to really have a much broader application within DoD. It also ensures that the questions that need to be asked … be asked in advance so that DoD can get ahead of where the technology is going.
Speaking to reporters after his keynote, Wittman said the legislation was shaped by conversations he had with people in the Pentagon and industry, though he did not mention if he had spoken with current CDAO Craig Martell. Wittman added that the bill will be packaged with the annual National Defense Authorization Act. Spokespeople for the CDAO did not respond to Breaking Defense’s request for comment for this report at the time of publication.
“We’ve had some preliminary conversations with people to help us shape the legislation, so I think they’re situationally aware of the things we’re trying to do,” he said. “I think (the joint agency for autonomy) is necessary … and I know sometimes there’s a parochiality that comes in and goes, ‘No … don’t worry about it, we’ve got it. ‘
“I think it should be increased,” he continued. “So I think it’s good to have someone at the policy level in Congress to say, ‘No, we have to push the envelope with this because status quo is not going to do.'”