JAIC Education & Training Strategy: What Can We Expect to See?

Sep. 8 2020

The Department of Defense (DoD) Joint Artificial Intelligence Center (JAIC) is expected to hand over to Congress sometime between now and September 15, its education and training strategy as mandated by the 2020 National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA) Section 256. This section of the NDAA requires specific curriculum to be developed as shown below:

2020 NDAA Section 256 Curriculum Requirements

  • AI design
  • Software coding
  • Potential military applications for AI
  • Impact of AI on military strategy and doctrine
  • AI decisionmaking via machine learning and neural networks
  • Ethical issues relating to AI
  • Potential biases of AI
  • Potential weakness in AI technology
  • Opportunities and risks
  • Any other matters the Secretary of Defense determines to be relevant

The JAIC will also give Congress the plan to implement this strategy. So, what can we expect to see in the JAIC education and training strategy and its associated implementation plan?

Expected Components of Strategy and Implementation Plan

Scaling - One of the strategic goal(s) is likely to be associated with scaling. In a recent press conference, JAIC Acting Director Nand Mulchandani referenced two existing internal training initiatives, BrainCamp, led by Chief AI Architect, Nate Bastian and a nine-week "Responsible AI Champions" course overseen by Alka Patel, AI Ethics Policy Head. While discussing the courses in his press conference, Mr. Mulchandani specifically used the word "scaling." Why? While the courses are currently focused on internal members of the JAIC, if the Center is going to scale AI capabilities to the Services and Combatant Commands, it will need to scale these courses to a larger population of the DoD workforce. The strategy will be focused way beyond the JAIC, itself, and be DoD enterprise wide.

Scaling learning programs is not something that is cost effective and timely if it relies on classroom-based or virtual-based training options. Therefore, we should expect to see references to online learning platforms to enable efficient scaling of mandated curriculum. In the DoD AI Strategy, it specifically references massive open online classes (MOOCs). Here is an excerpt from the strategy regarding MOOCs:


DoD recognizes the need to educate our workforce to navigate the AI era. We are leveraging the rise of digital content, including MOOCs (massive open online courses), e-books, and online videos, to provide employees with curated learning experiences, and augmenting this with classroom instruction from AI experts in industry and at top U.S. universities.

This AI training will provide: Senior leaders with an understanding of what AI can do for defense, how to create organizational AI strategies, and how to make appropriate resource allocation decisions for improved technological incorporation; mid-level leaders with knowledge for directing AI projects, resource allocation, and progress tracking, and for developing technical backgrounds for successful AI project deliveries; and technical staff with knowledge of comprehensive AI technologies for solution incorporation.

Online learning platforms, like our FedLearn, are needed to enable this scaling of the education and training strategy.

Foundational Curriculum - We should expect references to foundational curriculum that the DoD workforce (and government contractors, by default) are required or highly encouraged to take. For example, FedLearn developed the "AI for DoD Leaders" MOOC as foundational curriculum to educate Department leaders on the strategy, the JAIC mission and approaches (including the JAIC 2.0 AI Business Model), what AI and machine learning are, the importance of data to successful AI projects and the five ethical AI principles developed by the Defense Innovation Board.

Identification of Learning Resources - While to my knowledge there has been no effort to develop an AI-specific competency model to align internal and external learning content, we should expect to see identification of courseware from online learning providers (for instance edX and Coursera). Some of the courses from the 2020 NDAA are on topics like software coding, AI design and AI-related ethical issues. However, many of the courses referenced in the 2020 NDAA and DoD AI strategy are DoD specific. Here we can expect some type of roadmap on what DOD-specific AI courses get developed.

Online learning companies like Coursera or edX are likely not to invest in the development of DoD-specific content. Therefore, cost-effective, scalable, specialized and most importantly, contextualized learning solutions, like FedLearn, will be an important component to the implementation plan.

Culture Change - We should expect culture change as a key component of the JAIC education and training strategy. For AI capabilities to spread across the DoD, the organizational culture must change. A solid change management plant hat addresses cultural considerations must be part of the implementation plan for the project to be successful.

Future Success of the JAIC Mission Depends on Education and Training Strategy

The JAIC education and training strategy involves a significant investment of time and resources and is of obvious importance to the success of expanding the use of AI and associated ethical principles across the DoD. In addition, and most importantly, implementation of this strategy is critical to maintaining the leadership role of the U.S. in this new technology frontier.