The defense industry and Artificial Intelligence Chatbots: Opportunities and Risks

Joseph Mandour
CEO & Founder of FAR Group

The defense industry is a sector that manufactures military and national security equipment, technology, and services. Weapons, communication systems, surveillance technology, and other advanced technologies are included. 

In recent years, the defense industry has prioritized the development of innovative technologies such as unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs), artificial intelligence, and cybersecurity. These advancements have created new opportunities for industry companies and challenges related to regulations and ethical considerations. 

ChatGPT is an artificial intelligence-enabled chatbot tool created by Open AI, a U.S.-based AI lab. It became the fastest consumer application in history to reach 100 million active users two months after its November launch, and it has already begun to have a noticeable impact in business and academia.  

The extent to which ChatGPT (or its technological descendants and relatives) will influence national security and defense acquisitions remains unknown, as the technology has yet to replace humans in any meaningful capacity. However, based on early use cases and reactions to the tool, #ChatGPT is already bringing benefits and risks to defense professionals. 

For example, some companies in the health care, real estate, public relations, marketing, customer service, and media industries have begun to use iterations of generative AI, particularly ChatGPT, for tasks ranging from scheduling appointments to writing articles. ChatGPT has also made headlines for successfully passing a few benchmark exams, including correctly answering technical questions for an entry-level Google software engineering job and achieving passing grades on both a law school test and Wharton business school paper. 

Both small and large companies in the defense sector complain about time-consuming regulations, but smaller businesses sometimes have more difficulty complying with Federal Acquisition Regulation standards due to their unfamiliarity with government contracting processes and procedures. ChatGPT can help with this issue. 

The benefits of using generative AI to speed up and simplify the federal acquisition process have also been recognized by the Department of Defense. This year, the Department of Defense’s Chief Digital and AI Office announced that it is prototyping and testing “Acqbot,” an AI-powered contract-writing capability. The tool is designed to assist contracting officers in contract writing and contract lifecycle management. The tool is still in development and requires a lot of input data and human supervision. 

ChatGPT, in addition to its potential benefits in the defense sector, provides cybercriminals with an arsenal of potential use cases that threaten the cybersecurity posture of American citizens and the federal government. Non-state threat actors, such as script kiddies, hacktivists, and scammers, are already using ChatGPT’s technology to engage in various forms of cybercrime, but in the future, ChatGPT’s technology has the potential to be used by nation-state actors to conduct cyber espionage, information operations, and cyberattacks with increasingly devastating results. ChatGPT is simple to use and accessible to users with basic cyber skills, lowering the barrier to entry for various criminal actors. 

ChatGPT has a long way to go before it can be trusted with critical national security or defense contracting tasks. The information it generates is displayed confidently, but it is frequently untrustworthy without further verification—ChatGPT is incapable of recognizing potential misinformation.

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