While it’s clear that artificial intelligence (AI) technology is here to stay, a top Defense Department (DoD) tech official said this week that DoD must embrace the technology, but also proceed with caution.

During the Billington Cybersecurity Summit on Sept. 7, Lt. Gen. Robert Skinner, who heads the Defense Information Systems Agency (DISA), said that AI can support mission needs across the department. But as with any emerging technology, he said AI does not apply to all mission needs, and that the Pentagon needs to move forward accordingly.

“A lot of folks are hesitant to embrace AI. I’m embracing it, we must embrace it and we cannot delay because even as a nation we need to take advantage of what it offers,” Skinner said. “But taking advantage of this emerging technology also means understanding that it’s not the panacea that some people think.”

DISA is taking a forward-leaning approach to AI to help strengthen defense capabilities and support warfighters, Skinner said. He explained that AI can help the DoD workforce, especially warfighters, shift through its abundance of data and find “gold nuggets of information” that will help drive the mission and support warfighters.

Skinner also explained that there are specific use cases for AI that the department should consider implementing now, such as taking over repetitive tasks from staffers so that they can concentrate on assignments that require “more complex human thinking.”

DISA is also looking at AI and “how [it] applies to cybersecurity. How does it apply to intelligence? How does it apply to our warfighting capabilities? And that’s where we need the industry’s help – to help us understand faster and better than the adversary how this capability can be leveraged,” Skinner said.

“We need to have more strategic conversations with our industry partners to see what solutions we can embrace to help us meet our mission needs at speed and securely,” the general said.

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Lisbeth Perez
Lisbeth Perez
Lisbeth Perez is a MeriTalk Senior Technology Reporter covering the intersection of government and technology.