Reports claim that Silicon Valley is grabbing up military contracts, as the Pentagon looks to private companies for Artificial Intelligence (AI), development and adoption.
In a December speech to a group of start-up technology companies, Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin said that “this kind of change does not always happen as smoothly or quickly as I would like.”
The courtship of tech start-ups with the Department of Defense began long before public engagement was made by large language models like ChatGPT. Saildrone had been founded in 2013 and started developing an AI armada to conduct surveillance in international waters as early as 2021.
Alexander Karp is the CEO and cofounder of Palantir Technologies. He wrote an open message to European leaders a few weeks after Russia invaded Ukraine in February 2022. In it, he urged them that Silicon Valley could help modernize their armies.
Karp wrote that “a strong understanding of the relationship between state and technology… is required to ensure Europe and its allies remain strong enough in order to defeat the threat from foreign occupation.”
The U.S. took notice and began engaging more directly with start-ups and tech CEOs. The Pentagon also became more open to AI, when it gave a Silicon Valley startup DeepMedia the contract to develop technology that would detect deepfake manipulation of media.
DeepMedia CEO Rijul Gupta said, “We have been contracted to develop machine learning algorithms to detect artificially generated or modified voices or faces across all major languages, races, and genders. We will then integrate this AI platform into the DOD as a whole.”
DOD previously contracted DeepMedia to develop a universal translation platform that would “accelerate language translation between allies” and show intent to use AI on and off the field. A House bill passed by last month mandated that the Pentagon ensure its AI development enhanced both offensive and defensive abilities.
The New York Times reported that a number companies had signed military contracts by summer 2023 to develop military technology. Capella Space, for example, has a fleet of small satellites which can track enemy soldiers at night even when there is cloud cover.
The invasion in Ukraine was a test ground for technology that would have been unavailable otherwise. Demand for such technology has increased as a result of an increasing rocky security environment.
The Financial Times reported that several of these companies have promoted AI as an important tool to boost their profile, and to attract the DOD. Almost half the $1.9 billion of revenues generated by Palantir last year were from government contracts. This included the promise to supply AI software for data analytics and surveillance technology.
According to PitchBook, the investment in start-ups in the defense and weapons technology sector has increased from $16 billion to $33 billion between 2019 and 2022. NATO allies also raised $1 billion for start-ups addressing defense and security issues.
The Financial Times reported that PrimerAI, a tech developer, had provided intelligence to the U.S. just before Russia invaded Ukraine. PrimerAI has also continued to analyze the intentions of Russian President Vladimir Putin throughout the entire campaign.
BlackSky Space, Capella Space, and Planet Labs have all contributed to the development of satellite technology which uses AI to provide Ukraine with real-time, detailed images. This allows Ukraine to track Russia’s advances and understand their status.
Fox News’ Peter Kasperowicz, Eric Revell and this report were contributed by Fox News.