The Pentagon is planning to develop a network of AI-powered drones, technology, and autonomous systems in the next two years, with plans to spend hundreds of millions of dollars on technology to counter threats from China and other U.S. adversaries.
Deputy Secretary of Defense Kathleen Hicks, in a speech Wednesday, was expected to provide details about the plans to develop artificial intelligence systems for air, land, and sea that are intended to be "small, smart, cheap" as the U.S. works to keep up with China's military, The Wall Street Journal reported.
Hicks said in an interview Tuesday that the U.S. is not at war or seeking war, but has to get the Pentagon moving with urgency, as China "isn't waiting."
One way would be to build on technologies demonstrated by Task Force 59, the U.S. Navy's drones and sensors used to monitor Iran's military actions, Hicks is expected to say in her speech, hosted by Defense News in Arlington, Virginia.
"Imagine distributed pods of self-propelled [autonomous] systems afloat, powered by the sun and other virtually limitless resources, packed with sensors aplenty, enough to give us new, reliable sources of information in near-real-time," Hicks will say, according to her prepared remarks.
Autonomous ground-based systems are also considered that would provide logistics, with there being so many systems that an adversary would find them difficult to destroy. The systems could also defend against incoming missiles through the use of AI that detects and engages enemy targets.
Such systems have been underway for years, with the Defense Department investing in technology such as self-piloting ships and aircraft that do not include a crew.
Hicks was also expected to include details about the Pentagon's "Replicator" initiative, announced last week to offset the Chinese, and to detail some air, land, and sea capabilities the Pentagon hopes to develop.
China already has more ships than the U.S. Navy and has made investments in autonomous systems.
In 2022, a Pentagon report concluded tha China is "displaying growing numbers of autonomous and teaming systems" that include "a substantial amount of development displaying efforts to produce swarming capability for operational applications."
But some contractors say they doubt if there is enough money being spent to push back on China.
"The hundreds of millions of dollars range, while a great start, would only provide hundreds of the truly capable ocean drones we need to establish true deterrence to China and other adversaries," said Kevin Decker, chief executive of Ocean Aero, which has developed an environmentally powered autonomous underwater and surface vehicle.
Hicks said the Pentagon is planning a list of investments, based on what officials say they need, before the end of the year, adding that "overall, we are going to deliver in the thousands."
The Pentagon's latest budget request for fiscal year 2024 includes $1.8 billion for artificial intelligence.
Sandy Fitzgerald has more than three decades in journalism and serves as a general assignment writer for Newsmax covering news, media, and politics.
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