JAIC inks deal for prototype of new AI acquisition system

Lt. Gen. Michael Groen, Joint Artificial Intelligence Center director, conducts a press briefing about the DOD's efforts to adopt and scale artificial intelligence capabilities, from the Pentagon, Washington D.C., Nov. 24, 2020. (DoD photo by U.S. Air Force Staff Sgt. Jack Sanders)

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The Department of Defense’s artificial intelligence hub recently signed its first prototype contract to build an acquisition portal to more easily work with private companies.

The Joint AI Center signed an other transaction agreement contract on Jan. 20 with the nonprofit Indiana Innovation Institute to set up and manage a prototype of an agile acquisition portal it’s calling “Tradewind.”

Once up-and-running, the portal will allow the JAIC to communicate directly with prospective vendors and stay in touch with those already on-contract, something the JAIC currently cannot easily do. The center will host Tradewind directly on its AI.mil website with the hope of growing into a project management suite, like a government Asana for AI projects.

“Tradewind will provide a user-friendly framework for our private sector partners to work more efficiently with the DoD to scale and implement AI for the warfighter and consumers across the military,” William Roberts, JAIC chief of acquisition, said in a release Monday. “We want to learn from this initiative to improve the way DoD works with all types of private sector and academic partners, and inject the much needed speed and agility necessary to scale artificial intelligence and transform the Department.”

Tradewind was announced during the JAIC’s AI symposium in September. The concept came together based on feedback from industry and a desire to have a novel acquisition and communication approach that allows for the quick iteration and agile development necessary for AI. Separate from Tradewind, the DOD is also working on contract vehicles specific to AI development.

“One of the key aspects of it is transparency,” Nand Mulchandani, JAIC CTO and former acting director, said of the portal during the symposium. “As a part of Tradewind, we will be building an online portal that will allow industry partners to create self-services and to interact with the DOD and the JAIC.”

While the initial OTA is for a prototype, the JAIC has plans to build out more capabilities to the online portal in the coming months.

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Acquisition, artificial intelligence (AI), Joint Artificial Intelligence Center (JAIC)
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