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Melanie Sisson, senior fellow and director of the Stimson Center Defense Strategy & Planning Program, discusses AI efforts in the Pentagon, and how it’s not just about warfighting.  

The Defense Department’s first foray into artificial intelligence and lethality will start by the end of 2020. But national security leaders have been careful to say that the computers will never pull the trigger. Melanie Sisson, senior fellow and director of the Stimson Center Defense Strategy & Planning Program, says that the capabilities presented by defense AI go far beyond kinetic warfare.


“I think that the race analogy is not particularly useful. We are certainly in competition, as we always have been… But fundamentally we are not in an AI race. It is not going to look the same as a nuclear arms race for example. AI is so manifold in its manifestations. It is so diverse and a form of human creativity in a way. And it is not going to confine and shape itself to sort of governmental control the way these other systems did,” Sisson said. “The way I prefer to think about it, if we are in a race for anything it is a race for efficiency. We are in a race for efficiency not only against China, but against history. We live in a world of constrained resources. We’ve got to make the most of the assets that are available to us. Being able to use data through artificial intelligence and other techniques and to be more efficient in our business processes, to be more strategic in what we invest in. To be more strategic in the weapons systems we need to field to compete in the space with China.”

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