In the last few years, the US Special Operations Command (SOCOM) has been increasingly investing in Artificial Intelligence capabilities in an attempt to secure an edge over near-peer competitors.
During the Yale Special Operations Conference that took place in March, US special operations leaders offered some insight on how SOCOM has been approaching artificial intelligence. SOCOM’s chief technology officer Snehal Antani stated that they want data scientists and technical experts to be as close to the warfighters as possible to ensure a better and quicker research and development and implementation process.
SOCOM isn’t new to artificial intelligence. In 2019, the Marine Forces Special Operations Command (MARSOC), the Marine component of SOCOM, began experimenting with artificial intelligence to improve its selection process and ensure that more candidates pass and go on to become operators.
“It’s not just about tech, it’s about the process, it’s about the function,” Lieutenant Mike Groen, the director of the Joint Artificial Intelligence Center (JAIC) said during the Yale Special Operations Conference. “It’s enormously educational when you really start asking folks, ‘Okay, how do you actually make that decision. What data do you use? What data should you be using? How is that data presented to you? Could it be presented in a different way? Who actually owns that data? It is a huge leap to bring somebody in from the outside, into those types of organizations. So step one is, keep your mouth shut and learn, listen, earn the right to be part of the team.”
SOCOM has also been looking into developing multisensory data fusion and processing technology that would offer special operators an advantage on the battlefield. More specifically, SOCOM has been working with the industry to develop ways to quickly fuse different data, such as temperature, elevation, visibility, humidity, overhead imagery, and create an accurate picture of the battlefield and provide it to commandos.
As with many other initiatives and projects, artificial intelligence first designed for SOCOM often trickles down to their conventional brethren. There is a reason why SEAL Team 6’s official name is Naval Special Warfare Development Group (DEVGRU). It’s just not a cover name but a reflection of the unit’s and indeed of the rest of the special operations community’s research and development aspect. Now, the 18th Airborne Corps and the 82nd Airborne Division are looking to get their hands on some of the artificial intelligence projects used by their special operations colleagues.