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New Uses for Artificial Intelligence in the Intelligence Community

What Can Artificial Intelligence Do for the Intelligence Community?

The SMAPS program relies on natural language processing, or NLP, which is how a computer can understand text and words.

“It has cut in half the time that is needed to process those incoming incident messages and to write alerts,” Daniell says. “An incident message will come in, and we’re able to generate an alert to the mariner within half the time that we were previously, before SMAPS.”

From an intelligence perspective, NLP is crucial for staying one step ahead of the nation’s adversaries, she says. AI and ML pull information from a vast array of sources, improving the precision and reliability of collected data, Daniell says.

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Daniell’s research department recently studied how NLP can assist intelligence analysts with the reams of text and information that flow across their desks. NLP’s capacity to process billions of words in seconds automates the “sifting, sorting, translating and comprehending of all of this data,” she says.

Like SMAPS, this use of AI helps humans do their work faster.

“We have computer vision models to rapidly geolocate images that have no existing geospatial information,” Daniell says. Think of it as “Where’s Waldo?” technology for intelligence analysts, who might uncover an image from an iPhone and want to find where that building or person is located.

“It’s just a photograph and it could be anywhere in the world,” Daniell says. NGA has used this technology in beta test form and is now transitioning it to operations.

The Future of AI in Government

In 2018, the Office of the Director of National Intelligence launched the AIM Initiative, a strategy for augmenting intelligence using machines, to encourage intelligence agencies to organize and share their AI efforts.

“We can start to build synergy across the community in a way that actually makes sense,” Ryan Carpenter, an AIM program analyst for the ODNI, said during the INSA symposium.

The technology has advanced exponentially across the intelligence field, and agencies rushing to develop applications haven’t had much chance to look outside of their own environments, Carpenter says.

“They’re not necessarily talking to each other, so ODNI takes that role and tries to integrate across those different silos,” he says.

REVIEW: How to prepare a federal network for AI.

The intelligence community sees enormous potential to apply AI and ML technology broadly to the complicated challenges of national security, but it’s still in the early stages of that process, Daniell says. Some programs move from development to operational use faster than others, she added.

“What we’re very focused on in research is accelerating that science-to-mission timeline,” Daniell says. “Sometimes it takes years, but we’re focused on that mission objective.”

Raman says she took on her new role at the CIA to create and update the agency’s AI strategy in a more focused, mission-driven way.

“We’re really working toward a whole-agency approach toward AI,” Raman says. The technology has relevance for data collection, analysis, digital innovation, operations and even legal and finance areas, she says. “We want everybody to feel a part of this strategy.”

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USPTO Artificial Intelligence and Emerging Technologies Partnership