As recent events have shown, military decision-making is one of the highest-stakes challenges in the world: Diplomatic relations are at stake; billions of dollars of tax-funded budgets are in the balance; the safety and well-being of thousands of military and civilian personnel around the globe are on the line; and above all, the freedom and liberty of the United States and its more than 330 million citizens must be protected. But with such immense stakes comes an almost unfathomably large amount of related data that must be taken into account. Whether it is managing population health in an increasingly complex and connected world, or managing decisions on the network-centric battlefield, standalone humans are proving insufficient to harness the data, analyze it, and make timely and correct decisions.

Spanning six branches and upward of 1.3 million active duty military personnel on all seven continents, how can all of the data points — from dictates from the commander-in-chief to handwritten notes on the deck of an aircraft carrier — be taken into account? In matters of national security, speed and reliability in decision-making and avoiding technological surprises or being caught off guard by the nation’s political rivals require massive real-time analysis and first and second order thinking that includes the complexities of human behavior.

Consider all of the stakes and moving parts facing the leadership at a large domestic military base during the recent COVID-19 pandemic. Concerns of COVID-19 did not just need to consider the base personnel, but also the behavior of the civilians in the surrounding counties, as people from throughout the region, military and civilian contractors alike, were coming and going daily. The information necessary to consider starts with infection and hospitalization rates, but also includes behavior monitoring (and influencing) as well as staying up to date with steps being taken by local, regional and state officials to monitor the virus and limit its spread. With so many moving parts, it is very difficult to stay up to the minute on everything and to determine the right decision with any degree of certainty.

The answer to this guesswork and analysis paralysis lies in the capabilities of artificial intelligence and machine learning. If the military continues to waste too much time with human hours of effort and analysis that could be handled by machines, that could lead to danger and even death of military personnel or…

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