The Office of the Director of Science and Technology (DS&T) within the Office of the Director of National Intelligence (ODNI)—in partnership with the Office of the Under Secretary of Defense for Intelligence (OUSD[I])— announced on February 5 the winners of its first public challenge contest, “Xpress,” to explore artificial intelligence (AI) approaches with the potential to transform the process by which analysts currently support policymakers and warfighters through the research and generation of written products.
The Xpress Challenge sought to stimulate the development of innovative algorithms to craft analytic products that identified the national security implications of a representative intelligence question using a defined body of press reporting. Submissions were evaluated based on the quality of the report generated by the solvers’ algorithms as well as the solutions’ extensibility to additional, related questions. The prize categories awarded comprised:
- Literal — Ability to craft sound written material in response to the posed intelligence question ($50,000),
- Inferential — Ability to discern and characterize how the offered reasons (direct evidence, assumptions, precedents, or logical inferences) support analytic judgements and conclusions ($50,000),
- Evaluative — Ability to make reasoned assertions and incorporate alternative analysis ($50,000), and
- Creativity — Content, design, technological innovation, and the unique nature of the underlying idea ($50,000).
Ultimately, 387 teams from 42 countries registered for the Xpress Challenge, with 13 teams submitting solutions that were responsive to the challenge. Those teams receiving Xpress Challenge awards included:
- The top-performing submission, developed by Simon Cazals, was an extensible solution that won $150,000 by capturing Xpress’ Literal, Inferential, and Evaluative prizes.
- A second submission, led by Thomas Vreeland of the Vreeland Institute of Arts and Sciences, was awarded the Creativity prize for the solution’s approach for self-evaluating its machine-generated responses.
“As a means for exploring how well algorithms are currently able to inform policymakers and warfighters, we are thrilled with the opportunities for mission impact that these techniques begin to open up for the Community,” said Dr. David Isaacson, DS&T program manager for the challenge. “Although trained IC analysts’ products still exceed the quality of the reports generated by these solutions, Cazals’ approach generated its responses in about 10 seconds using commodity hardware. Ultimately, such AI-enabled approaches may afford decision-makers a parallel intelligence production model that allows them to rapidly determine if such a machine-generated output is ‘good enough’ for their pressing information needs.”
The ODNI and the OUSD(I) are grateful to all those who submitted potential solutions to this critical intelligence problem, as well as to the Air Force Research Laboratory and AFCEA International for their support in executing the Xpress Challenge. Through public challenges such as Xpress, the ODNI and the OUSD(I) are advancing the IC’s mission of stimulating technology-based capabilities for solving intelligence challenges today and in the future.
“This is an excellent opportunity for the IC to break new ground in how we inform policymakers or enable the warfighter in the field. It just doesn’t get any better than that.” said Sue Gordon, Principal Deputy Director of National Intelligence. “I am excited these incredible minds came together from all around the globe to develop artificial intelligence methods to solve the critical intelligence problems we face today and in the future.”