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CRUSER Examines the Navy's Future With Artificial Intelligence
U.S. Navy photo MC2 Patrick Dionne

CRUSER Examines the Navy's Future With Artificial Intelligence

By MC2 Patrick Dionne

Brett Vaughn, senior staff member from the office of the Deputy Chief of Naval Operations for Information Warfare, speaks to members of NPS’ Consortium for Robotics and Unmanned Systems Education and Research (CRUSER) in the Mechanical and Aerospace Engineering Auditorium, Feb. 27. Vaughn’s discussion covered the complex journey the Navy must embark on to realize the full potential of artificial intelligence, including the challenges this poses and the conditions needed to overcome them.

“One of the reasons I am here is because I feel the faculty and students here at NPS are a critical part in the journey we must take,” said Vaughn. “I suspected this before I had made this trip, and the last two days of discussions I have had, and all the work I have seen from the students here have confirmed that.”

Vaughn covered the differences between an exponential organization, an organization that has achieved a 10-fold growth capacity via the application of exponential technology, and a linear organization. He cited companies like Google, Apple and Netflix as examplesof exponential organizations that use exponential technologies to achieve an advantage over their competitors, while the Navy better fits the definition of a linear organization.

“If you look at how the Navy conducts its research, budget and programming for things, then you can see that it is very much a linear organization. So if the Navy is going to successfully peruse and apply AI, then it is important to recognize that we are a linear organization chasing an exponential goal,” Vaughn said.

“What makes you guys so important on this journey is that if you look at the Navy, most of the work done involving AI is in the realm of research and lab work,” Vaughn continued. “A lot of those advances in some areas today are driven by industry and commercial partners, and through the efforts of groups like CRUSER, which builds connections between industry and academia, we can have these connections that are absolutely vital to apply that technology.”

Vaughn turned his focus to potential challenges that stand in the Navy’s way of embracing and developing AI, including the Navy’s culture and business practices.

“These technologies have a distinct nature from things the Pentagon traditionally thinks of when it comes to resourcing and fielding,” said Vaughn. “They move so fast and so dynamic that if you tried to resource it at the same level you would a plane or a ship, you will fail. So we need to find better approaches and faster approaches.

Vaughn stressed that the Navy is a leader in the science and technology portion of AI and in its development, but he also noted that what the service lacked is in its application. It’s time for the AI being developed in the lab to be pushed out into the field and tested in real world scenarios, he said.

CRUSER seeks to capitalize efforts, both internal and external to NPS, by facilitating active means of collaboration, providing a portal for information exchange among researchers and educators with collaborative interests, fostering innovation through directed programs of operational experimentation, and supporting the development of an array of educational ventures.

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