The Pentagon and AI

Big Tech along with weapons manufacturers are reaping obscene profits as the U.S. Department of Defense promotes Artificial Intelligence, claiming its value in preparing for war anywhere at any time.

Secretary of Defense Lloyd J. Austin III at a House Armed Services Committee hearing on the 2023 defense budget request in Washington, D.C., April 5, 2022. PHOTO: U.S. Air Force TSgt. Jack Sanders / DoD
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Artificial Intelligence (AI)  is the future of warfare. Fully self-directed battlefield robots may be nearing reality. The Pentagon has been developing Artificial Intelligence projects for over a decade and is hyper-conscious that they are a major tool for all world powers. Warmongers are justifying huge budget increases for AI development to compete with Chinese and Russian armed forces. They also claim it will improve combat preparedness.

AI is computer learning that can analyze masses of data and make decisions without human input. Currently, the military is applying it to surveillance, intelligence gathering, autonomous weapons, and robotic vehicles. It is already in use in Ukraine and Gaza. Entirely computerized Russian and Ukrainian drones counter cyber-attacks on them and home in on targets. The Iron Dome missile defense system in Israel is an AI platform developed with billions of U.S. dollars.

The Department of Defense (DoD) is financing nearly 700 applications, many coordinated through its Joint Artificial Intelligence Center. And Big Tech is reaping the profits. All the main armament corporations like Lockheed Martin, Raytheon, and Boeing have AI departments. They also subcontract with giants like Google, Microsoft and Amazon. In addition, a multitude of smaller Silicon Valley start-ups are receiving million-dollar contracts for machine learning development.

High tech drives funding

DoD requested a 2024 budget increase of $26 billion for a total allocation of $842 billion! Top brass cited the need to invest in AI in order to defend against China and to be ready for combat wherever at the drop of a hat. The amounts allocated to the DoD are half of what the Pentagon actually spends annually. Because financing often comes from other departments and money is secreted in classified projects, real military expenditures are believed to be in the trillions.

National (so-called) defense is now the largest category of federal expenditures, nearing 50% of the discretionary budget approved by Congress every year.

Ironically, the department’s finances are so chaotic that it has implemented an AI program to navigate it. Fraud and excessive overbilling are rampant. In the five years the department was mandated to audit itself, it failed every time.

The high-cost, high-tech path of the Pentagon is full of problems. The dangers of relying on computers for judgment are numerous; they depend on the data they are fed and the biases of trainers. Civilian AI photo recognition systems have already been shown to cause wrongful arrests of innocent people. Machines should never be used to make life-and-death decisions, especially not if they are autonomous hypersonic missiles.

Capitalism needs war. It profits from the sale, destruction, and replacement of weapons (as well as the rebuilding of bombed infrastructure). As the world heads toward a state of permanent conflict, the military budget is a frenzied whirlpool sucking in gobs of money that should be used to address human needs. (See “What could Australians buy for the cost of a nuclear sub?”) Let’s use AI to create a world of plenty for all, not one where corporations enrich themselves from death and destruction.

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