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JAIC Director Calls for Acquisition Powers to Deliver AI Products Efficiently

JAIC Director Calls for Acquisition Powers to Deliver AI Products Efficiently

Lt. Gen. Jack Shanahan, director of the Joint Artificial Intelligence Center, believes that it is imperative for the agency to establish its own acquisition authority in order to efficiently deliver AI technology across the Department of Defense.

Shanahan, a 2020 Wash100 winner, expounded on the matter during an AFCEA virtual event, expressing urgency that the JAIC needs to independently issue requests and contract awards, as he believes that the current workarounds implemented by the agency will not cut it in the next two years.

As it stands, the JAIC relies on agencies like the General Services Administration and the Defense Innovation Unit to process contract awards on its behalf, Fedscoop reported Thursday.

Most recently, the JAIC awarded an $800M artificial intelligence tech development task order to Booz Allen Hamilton under the GSA‘s Alliant 2 Governmentwide Acquisition Contract. According to Shanahan, the contract award to Booz Allen ties in with the JAIC’s top goal should it receive its own acquisition authority―leveling the playing field at receiving contracts. As explained by Shanahan, Booz Allen is meant to serve as an integrator that will be central to bringing in smaller companies as subcontractors.

Shanahan’s call for acquisition powers was met with support from Adam Smith, D-Wash., who serves as the chairman of the House Armed Services Committee, the House panel responsible for authorizing new authorities through the National Defense Authorization Act.

“As the focal point for AI and despite the young age of the JAIC, Chairman Smith supports the need for JAIC to have the appropriate authorities to ensure they are able to acquire technologies rapidly, without the stunting layers of bureaucracy,” a Democratic spokesperson told FedScoop.

For the time being, the JAIC will continue releasing requests for information and using several types of contract vehicles including other transaction agreements in support of its many lines of effort. 

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