U.S. Special Operations Command is ramping up its efforts to develop “cutting-edge data techniques” like artificial intelligence to boost readiness and minimize costs.
As part of that initiative, the command unveiled its new Data Engineering Lab located at the SOFWERX facility in Tampa, Florida, on Wednesday. SOFWERX was established under a partnership intermediary agreement with SOCOM and DEFENSEWERX, formerly known as the Doolittle Institute, to help address war fighter problems for the command.
The lab was designed to cultivate AI, machine learning, and robotic process automation — all to boost the performance and strength of special operations forces, SOCOM spokeswoman Army Maj. Jennifer Bocanegra told the Military Times.
“The DEL is modeled off of leading technology companies, where DoD partners, industry thought leaders, academia and Special Operations Forces collaborate to develop, test and employ new technical approaches to modernize warfighting decision making,” Bocanegra said in an email to the Military Times.
Already, several projects are underway at the DEL, according to Bocanegra.
Along with the Pentagon’s Joint Artificial Intelligence Center, the DEL is working on a project supporting the 160th Special Operations Aviation Regiment based at Fort Campbell in Kentucky to use AI and machine learning technology to help predict and prevent key mechanical issues, and to enhance the effectiveness of aircraft maintenance, among other things.
“This project is in its early stages, but initial data collection, analysis and use of results have resulted in a significant increase in readiness, at cost savings,” Bocanegra said.
A ribbon cutting ceremony for the opening of the lab was held on Wednesday, and included remarks from SOCOM commander, Army Gen. Richard Clarke and SOCOM Chief Data Officer David Spirk.
Spirk joined SOCOM in 2018, after working with the Department of Defense’s Project Maven Program that launched in April 2017. The artificial intelligence program is designed to use machine learning and artificial intelligence to process full-motion video.
The new lab comes as SOCOM is composing a new artificial intelligence and machine learning strategy as part of its program objective memorandum for fiscal years 2022 to 2026. At the time, Spirk said Special Operations Forces components would start crafting the strategy starting in September.
“We’re going to start the crafting of a real roadmap,” he said at the Special Operations Forces Industry Conference in May, according to National Defense. “This will help the command...talk about the investments we need to make and the resources that we’re going to need.”
The DEL will be overseen by SOCOM’s Data Office, but will be housed in SOFWERX’s facility in Tampa’s Ybor City. SOFWERX and the new data lab will both address solutions for special operator needs, Bocanegra said.
“Being co-located provides opportunities for the DEL and SOFWERX to collaborate on future challenges for the Special Operations community,” Bocanegra said.