The Pentagon is hiring Watson—IBM’s super computer that defeated all-time Jeopardy! champions Ken Jennings and Brad Rutter in a 2011 exhibition match—to help interpret the inscrutable 5000 series of procurement rules, Air Force acquisition chief William LaPlante revealed at an AFA-sponsored, Air Force breakfast Friday. “I’m not kidding,” LaPlante said. “We’re going to teach Watson the FAR,” or Federal Acquisition Regulations, with the aim of “seeing how far [we] can go … in automation of some acquisition practices, where you have almost artificial intelligence.” He later told reporters one experiment might be to feed a novel acquisition approach to Watson to see “if it’s legal. We’re going to teach it to be a lawyer.” LaPlante said the experiment is only one of a number of innovative acquisition ideas in play, such as creating a “big challenge” prize of $2 million for whoever can design the most efficient next-generation engine for remotely piloted aircraft. After a 100-minute briefing on top acquisition programs and the health of the acquisition workforce, LaPlante, showing his prescience, dryly observed, “’Watson’ is going to be the headline tomorrow, isn’t it?”
Lessons from the KC-46 and F-35 will prove useful for the testing community in the years to come, said Nickolas Guertin, the nominee to be director of operational test and evaluation for the Pentagon, told the Senate Armed Services Committee on Oct. 19.