JAIC seeking industry input for new model to rapidly acquire AI

The acting director of the Department of Defense Joint Artificial Intelligence Center, Nand Mulchandani, briefs reporters about DoD's recent initiatives with artificial intelligence, the Pentagon, Washington, D.C., July 8, 2020. (DoD photo by Lisa Ferdinando)

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The Department of Defense‘s Joint Artificial Intelligence Center has a new idea for how to buy AI and wants industry’s help working with small, nontraditional technology companies.

In a pair of recent requests for informationJAIC seeks feedback on its plans to build a new model to work around traditional AI procurement roadblocks.

JAIC officials have said that with rapid development in AI’s algorithms and its massive appetite for data, traditional contracting methods and business models the government use won’t work. The center’s answer to these challenges is a new model dubbed Tradewind — an Other Transaction Authority-based business model in which the JAIC would build an ecosystem of industry, academic and think tank sources to accelerate its work.

“Government procurement of AI solutions is complicated, fraught with risk, and demands that the Government adopt innovative, flexible, and emergent approaches to acquisition commensurate with the complexity of the solutions being procured,” an RFI published Friday states.

The Tradewind model is designed to use other transaction agreements to work around the Federal Acquisition Regulations and speed up work with an emphasis on nontraditional technology vendors. The program will also feature a web-based portal for contractors to use throughout their time working on DOD projects as a way to make it easier for companies to understand their work with DOD. The JAIC intends for the portal to also have automated some contracting workflows like generating requirement definitions and tracking project statuses.

To lead Tradewind, “the JAIC is considering setting up a competition for a 501(c) (non-profit) manager(s) of its prototype Artificial Intelligence (AI) Acquisition Business Model,” the RFI says.

The JAIC also wants help determining which entities would make up its “ecosystem” of partners. The center needs some partners in Tradewind that will not be technology providers but rather integrators that will help technology companies work better with government. Potential partners include accelerators, venture capitalists, consortiums and think tanks.

The RFI states the JAIC is looking for “Trusted Ecosystem Partners who are part of existing government, academic, and commercial ecosystems who: bring together technology innovators, create collaborative problem solving environments; and enable academic, traditional, and non-traditional business partnerships, mentoring, and resourcing.”

The Tradewind concept was unveiled at the JAIC’s AI Symposium in early September.

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artificial intelligence (AI), Department of Defense (DOD), Joint Artificial Intelligence Center (JAIC), Tradewind
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