U.S. intelligence agencies are applying AI and machine learning (ML) technology to boost efficiency and effectiveness across their mission areas. Geospatial intelligence uses imagery and location data to detect human activity.
NGA makes it safer not only to navigate the oceans but also to fly aircraft, fight in wars, locate targets and respond to natural disasters.
NGA recently set up a digital, data and innovation directorate to take a greater role in managing and sharing developments in AI across the intelligence community and Defense Department to enhance interoperability, Daniell says.
“This new directorate is a reflection of how seriously the agency views AI/ML technology and how valuable we think it will be to meeting our most pressing operational challenges,” she says.
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Traditionally, NGA has put AI to use in specific niches, such as determining whether Arctic ship lanes are covered in snow or ice. “Now, we’re seeing enormous interest in other areas,” Daniell says.
Agencies are now using AI for natural language processing, as with SMAPS, as well as “digital engineering, acoustics and different varieties of data that are not necessarily image-based,” she says.
At the National Security Agency, human language processing is the “poster child of success” in applying AI to operations, says James Lampton, a leader in the NSA’s Capabilities Directorate, during a panel discussion at the Intelligence and National Security Alliance’s spring symposium.
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AI has enabled speaker identification and speech-to-text processing. “This isn’t a hypothetical; we’re using it now,” Lampton says. “We have machine translation mechanisms that serve thousands of users across the intelligence community, the U.S. military and the government, being able to process over 90 different languages.”
The CIA has contracted with cloud computing and infrastructure platform providers including Amazon, Google, Oracle, Microsoft and IBM to support its AI efforts, says Lakshmi Raman, the CIA’s chief of AI, who also spoke at the INSA symposium.
“They offer that backbone for our officers to develop and deploy their own AI and data analytics tools when necessary,” she says. “I think those managed services available via some of those cloud providers are going to be key to how we apply AI to some of our highest-priority mission problems.”