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RUSI raises concerns over AI plans at MoD


Mark Say Managing Editor

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The Ministry of Defence (MoD) is not yet well placed for successful deployments of AI, according to officials from a leading defence research body.

Representatives of the Royal United Services Institute (RUSI) have said that, despite the MoD having an AI strategy, it still needs to provide more clarity over plans and to adjust its procurement processes and engagement with potential suppliers.

A blogpost by Dr Pia Hüsch, cyber research fellow at RUSI, and Noah Sylvia, research analyst for C4ISR military sciences, said there is uncertainty over how to integrate AI with existing systems, and the MoD contains a large number of architectural standards, patterns and interfaces that can limit the accessibility of data.

This is exacerbated by procurement being scattered across a number of entities under the defence umbrella, and the fact that MoD procurement is heavily oriented towards large contractors, while most AI innovation takes place in smaller firms and start-up.

“The regulatory framework requires experience of navigating the complex MoD bureaucracy as well as sufficient capital to sustain one’s firm through the long process,” the blog said.

Need for agility

Some of these problems could be resolved by the Defence AI Centre, which has published a Defence AI Playbook, but overall there is a need for procurement to become agile to include smaller companies.

Hüsch and Sylvia added that this reflects a problem in the wider public sector.

“Declaring the aim to become a global AI superpower is perhaps an ambitious target, but it is by no means sufficient in terms of setting useful guidance and vision for government departments,” they said.

“The UK’s public sector needs more tangible goals to work towards. This means identifying in more concrete terms what being an ‘AI superpower’ looks like in the next three, five, 10 and 20 years.”

It will also require more understanding of the technology among senior leaders and a more agile approach to external hiring, they added.

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