GAMECHANGER: Breaking Down the Pentagon’s Bloated, Broken Budget with AI

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The Pentagon’s $816.7 Billion Budget is Getting an AI Overhaul

In an era where tech moguls like Elon Musk issue ominous warnings about the potential existential threats posed by artificial intelligence, the U.S. military is employing AI for a rather prosaic task:

attempting to comprehend its sprawling $816.7 billion budget and untangling its convoluted policies.

The Budget’s Complexity Calls for AI Assistance

The Department of Defense’s annual budget legislation, with its bloat and political complexities, is laden with hundreds of revisions and restrictions that dictate what the Pentagon can or cannot do.

To make sense of this insanely convoluted fiscal landscape, the Pentagon has enlisted the help of an AI program known as GAMECHANGER.

Gregory Little, the deputy comptroller of the Pentagon, expressed his enthusiasm for the program, stating, “In my comptroller role, I am, of course, the most excited about applying GAMECHANGER to gain better visibility and understanding across our various budget exhibits.”

Critics Decry Overcomplication

However, not everyone is applauding this particular technological intervention.

William Hartung, a senior research fellow at the Quincy Institute for Responsible Statecraft and a defense budget expert, criticized the need for such a ridiculous program.

“The fact that they have to go to such extraordinary measures to understand what their own policies are is an indictment of how they operate.”, he said.

He likened this issue to the broader problem of budgeting within the Pentagon, where decisions are often deferred, and additional policies and spending are piled on without addressing existing ones.

Legislative Challenges Loom

As House Republicans prepare to pass their defense budget, questions about the Pentagon’s reliance on AI to navigate its policies have raised some rather serious concerns.

They initially aimed to vote on an $826 billion proposal, but it faced resistance from the Republicans of the Freedom Caucus, which demanded cuts to non-defense spending.

Julia Gledhill, an analyst at the Project on Government Oversight’s Center for Defense Information, criticized the Pentagon’s use of AI in this context, emphasizing the department’s inability to account for an unbelievable 61% of its $3.5 trillion in assets during its most recent audit.

Navigating a Policy Maze

The GAMECHANGER AI program serves as a tool for military leaders grappling with an overwhelming number of policies.

It encompasses over 15,000 policy documents that govern various aspects of Pentagon operations.

According to its GitHub entry, reading all these policies would be akin to reading Leo Tolstoy’s epic novel “War and Peace” over 100 times.

The Defense Intelligence Agency, in a press release about GAMECHANGER, lamented the Pentagon’s “mountain of policies and requirements” and highlighted the challenges of comprehending such a vast policy landscape.

Congress Joins the Critique

Surprisingly, members of Congress have echoed similar concerns.

The Senate Armed Services Committee described the rules governing the department as “byzantine” and “labyrinthine” in a report for the National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA) for fiscal year 2023.

Notably, the NDAA authorized a staggering $802.4 billion in funding for the defense budget.

AI in Action

Although GAMECHANGER was announced in February of the previous year, it has received minimal media attention.

The Joint Artificial Intelligence Center, a branch of the U.S. Air Force established in 2018, developed this program.

Following its completion, ownership of GAMECHANGER was transferred to the office of the Defense Department comptroller, responsible for budgetary and fiscal matters.

Shortly after its release, GAMECHANGER found utility among over 6,000 Defense Department users who conducted more than 100,000 queries, according to the Defense Intelligence Agency.

This natural language processing application is part of a broader suite of AI programs funded by the Pentagon, none of which are very cheap to develop.

AI Proliferates in the Pentagon

The Pentagon is currently funding no less than 686 AI projects, as reported by the National Academy of Sciences, excluding classified efforts.

GAMECHANGER’s ironic name, as described by William Hartung, highlights the modest achievement of using AI to decipher the department’s own convoluted mess of past policies.

In the broader context, it showcases the larger issue of how policies are made and managed within the Pentagon, rather than solving the problem of navigating through them.

As the Pentagon continues to invest in AI solutions, the question remains whether it can streamline its bureaucratic, convoluted complexities.

Maybe a different AI can do that for them, too.

This innovative application of AI within the Pentagon may well be a sign of the times, but when technology is harnessed even for the mundane task of deciphering budgets and policies within the military establishment, shouldn’t someone ask how they got into this mess in the first place?

Read the original story here:

The Intercept



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