Two BRAVO AI Battle Labs will be established at U.S. European Command and the U.S. Indo-Pacific Command, in collaboration with the Chief Digital and Artificial Intelligence Office’s Algorithmic Warfare Directorate and the Defense Innovation Unit, to expedite learning from Department of Defense (DOD) data. Over the next year, the labs will organize multiple U.S. federal government-wide BRAVO Hackathons, including some with coalition partners.
“BRAVO Hackathons represent an opportunity for DoD to practice and proliferate the fundamentals of user-centered design and agile software development,” said Joe Larson, the Defense Department’s Deputy Chief Digital and AI Officer for Algorithmic Warfare. “By providing the seed funding to establish the AI Battle Labs in EUCOM and INDOPACOM, we will be designing and testing data analytic and AI capabilities with warfighters, not for them, informing and strengthening our ability to deliver exactly what they need to win.”
These multi-classification labs will collect operational theater data — ranging from logistics to cyber — and share it with the DoD enterprise, providing central hubs for digital integration among federal entities, industry, coalition partners and American citizenry. The BRAVO Hackathon series will continue organizing one-week events to integrate data at any classification within a software development environment that permits untrusted licensed open-source and commercial software and data otherwise not approved for production systems.
“On behalf of the DOD, we will deploy BRAVO’s awesome development experience to combatant commands to host timeboxed hackathons and continuously develop and integrate capabilities developed from operational theater data,” said Stuart “Dr” Wagner, Air Force Chief Digital Transformation Officer and Executive Agent for the BRAVO AI Battle Labs. “Given that a free society’s largest competitive advantage is innovation and collaboration, the labs will provide a physical and digital space for serendipitous social collisions as DoD, industry, and coalition partners prototype solutions to challenges from peer competitors. Any U.S. citizen remains eligible to apply to participate in public BRAVO hackathons.”
Federal government employees and federal contractors are encouraged to share use cases, data, infrastructure, or potential collaborations with these labs by contacting [email protected]. U.S. citizens and U.S. industry seeking to collaborate with these labs are encouraged to contact the Defense Innovation Unit at [email protected].
“We look forward to working with the BRAVO labs to ensure that developers and companies who want to work with DOD data can rapidly access the environments they need to demonstrate operational relevance,” said Doug Beck, Director of the Defense Innovation Unit.
The labs will continue the series’ bottom-up approach to problem solving, where military members, civilians and federal contractors propose projects and form self-organizing teams that develop prototypes inside combatant commands.
“The use of emerging AI tools to quickly analyze and leverage data for decision advantage is critical in today’s increasingly complex threat environment,” said U.S. Army Maj. Gen. Peter Andrysiak, U.S. European Command Chief of Staff. “Establishing one of the BRAVO AI Battle labs within in the USEUCOM region is an important investment for this command. The lab will enable greater innovation at the edge, with our Allies and partners, against a range of challenges at a pivotal time for the command.”
The labs seek to interconnect Combatant Command, enterprise DOD, and coalition partner capabilities from data ingestion and system integration to approved employment. The Air Force’s system-of-systems technology integration toolchain for heterogeneous electronic systems (STITCHES) will integrate various Combatant Command and service level systems directly to the labs.
Across three BRAVO hackathons at six separate sites, 81 operational prototypes have been produced at three classifications from operational DOD data at approximately 2 percent the cost of existing DOD minimum viable product innovation pipelines such as Small Business Innovation Research Program Phase II grants.
Since the BRAVO 10 hackathon in March 2023 at Hurlburt Field, Fla., 33 percent of those projects have been utilized in production or received follow-on funding commitments that totals over 75 times the cost of the hackathon itself. Dozens of prototypes from prior events have been further resourced and impacted major defense programs in areas including large language models, space launch, flight telemetry and biometrics, radar resiliency, unmanned systems, personnel recovery, sensing and targeting, user experience, intelligence analysis, situational report automated analysis, battle damage assessment, critical communication system reliability and legal and administrative operations among others.
“Despite the speed and impacts from BRAVO hackathons, we are still finding the time from development of capabilities, calibrations, or tactics with operational data to employment in theater to be on the order of months or years,” Wagner said. “We are deploying these labs to drop this timeline by a factor of 100 — from months or years to days and eventually hours — by increasingly automating bureaucratic processes such as data classification determinations and authority to operate applications. If successful, we will adapt our capabilities and tactics to our strategic competitors faster than they can adapt to us.”
Named from Billy Mitchell’s controversial 1920s Project B battleship bombing trials that creatively disproved the top funding priority of the Secretary of War by demonstrating bombers sink battleships, BRAVO seeks to empower government, academia, industry, citizens and foreign partners to rapidly develop capabilities from existent IT systems while encouraging psychological safety and rank-agnostic innovation.