The Pentagon wants $12 billion for drones and AI to “kick the crap” out of autocratic regimes

A tiny drone.
A tiny drone.
Image: Reuters/Neil Hall
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Exoskeletons, wearable electronics, and miniature drones controlled by mother ships are all on the Pentagon’s “to-do” list for next year.

When the Pentagon goes to hash out its budget in the next few weeks for the upcoming fiscal year, it will ask for $12 to $15 billion in funding for the development and experimentation of new technologies, US deputy defense secretary Robert Work announced at a conference yesterday (Dec. 14), reports Reuters. That sum would go toward investments in autonomous weapons, deep-learning artificial intelligence machines, and human-machine combat—among other classified projects.

That the US defense department wants to update its gear should come as no surprise. For a while now, it has been experimenting with futuristic projects like self-destructing delivery machines and even self-healing bodies. It’s also working toward a system that will allow military commanders to adjust the course of a missile while it’s in the air.

At the conference, Work remarked on the Pentagon’s competitive motivation for focusing on technology:

We believe that the advantage we have is … our people; that tech-savvy people who’ve grown up in the iWorld will kick the crap out of people who grew up in the iWorld under an authoritarian reign.

And though the Pentagon will keep most of its work strictly classified, it will announce some specific accomplishments just to keep other countries on their toes, Work said. He added, “I want our competitors to wonder who’s behind the black curtain.”

The department’s fiscal 2017 budget proposal is due to be finalized this month, and submitted for congressional review on Feb. 1.