Operations Command took a notable step towards the realization of its artificial
intelligence strategy Sept. 25. Together, U.S. Special Operations Commander Gen.
Richard D. Clarke with Senior Enlisted Advisor Chief Master Sgt. Gregory Smith
and the command’s Chief Data
Officer David Spirk, formally cut the ribbon signifying the official opening of
the USSOCOM Data Engineering Lab at the SOFWERX facility in Tampa, Fla.
During his remarks,
Gen. Clarke discussed the impact data will have on USSOCOM’s future operations
and investments. He also emphasized the command’s desire to attract top talent
from the tech world including: data scientists, data architects, software
developers and system integrators who could bring cutting edge solutions to improve
the efficiency and capability of special operations forces.
“SOCOM is open
for business,” Clarke said. “Bring us your partnership, innovative solutions,
and big ideas.”
The DEL is housed
inside the SOFWERX facility in Tampa, Florida and offers an open-concept work
environment modeled after leading technology companies. The work space is intended
to be unclassified and accessible with the goal of fostering collaboration
among cross-functional teams consisting of special operations forces
professionals, Department of Defense partners, industry thought-leaders and
security challenges of the day won’t be solved in closed rooms in our
headquarters … They’ll be solved in spaces like this, together with you,” Clarke
told the audience.
The lab will
serve as the command’s outpost connected to the larger Department of Defense
modernization ecosystem and its projects will focus on the design and
development of advanced data techniques, including AI, machine learning, and
robotic process automation.
with the Department of Defense, is dedicated to advancing our data architecture
and analytical tools,” Clarke said. “We believe this DEL is one of many that
will emerge in the future ecosystem across the DoD, the broader U.S. government,
and foreign partners.”
Spirk and the
USSOCOM data office will supervise DEL production confirming alignment with the
USSOCOM AI goals.
“This has been
a huge, huge capability improvement for us,” Spirk said. “This is a realization
of what this future is for us.”
joined USSOCOM in 2015 as the associate director for the USSOCOM intelligence directorate. He took on the position as the chief data officer
in 2018 where he is responsible for leading the integration of artificial
intelligence and machine learning automation across the USSOCOM enterprise.
There are around
10 fledgling projects underway. One such project focuses on predictive
maintenance and is a collaborated effort involving the Pentagon’s Joint
Artificial Intelligence Center and the 160th Special Operations Aviation
Regiment (Airborne) and the command’s data office. The goal of the project is
to create an AI-managed program that statistically predicts engine component
failures. By leveraging AI technology, flying hours will be optimized and aircraft
maintainer readiness, and efficiency will improve.
to the official ceremony, 50 different companies dedicated to AI, machine learning
and data science showcased their organizations to the more than 200 attendees from
across the Special Operations community, DoD, U.S. government agencies and
local leaders in technology.
SOFWERX is an unclassified,
off-campus facility located in Tampa, Florida, designed to bring
non-traditional partners from industry, academia and the U.S. government
together to work on USSOCOM’s most challenging problems. SOFWERX was created in
September 2015 under a partnership intermediary agreement between DEFENSEWERX
While the DEL and SOFWERX are co-located, the
DEL will focus on AI, machine learning and data science; however, being in
close proximity offers opportunities for both entities to collaborate on
projects to further SOF capabilities.