DAF-MIT AI Accelerator names new DAF director

  • Published
  • By Staff Sgt. Kristen Pittman
  • Department of the Air Force AI Accelerator
The Department of the Air Force-Massachusetts Institute of Technology Artificial Intelligence Accelerator has named a new DAF director, Col. Garry “Pink” Floyd.

Col. Floyd joins the Accelerator following a command position at Osan Air Base, South Korea where he led the 694th Intelligence, Surveillance and Reconnaissance Group. 

As the DAF director, Floyd will oversee teams of Airmen and Guardians as they work alongside MIT’s leading experts to advance AI research, ensure ethical use of AI technologies, and ultimately, make AI work better for the Air Force and Space Force. 

While Floyd’s career has largely taken place within the intelligence career field, he is no stranger to the development and deployment of AI for national security purposes, having been a part of AI initiatives such as Project Maven and the National Geospatial-Intelligence Agency’s AI, Automation, and Augmentation (AAA) team.

He said his AI journey really began when he was stationed in Alaska, working for the National Security Agency. “We faced a situation that has become common…we collected far more data than we could process in real time, which forces us to make choices that inevitably left important data on the cutting room floor.” Floyd continued, “ultimately, I was and continue to be unsatisfied with the sensors and the tools we had available in terms of getting relevant information to decision makers faster.”

Following his service in Alaska, Floyd was selected for the Air Force’s Blue Horizons program, a 10-month professional development education program that tasks Air War College and Air Command and Staff College students to explore issues of future geo-strategic and military-technological competition. 

Toward the end of his time at Blue Horizons, Lt. Gen. Jack Shanahan spearheaded the stand up of the Algorithmic Warfare Cross Functional Team, more commonly known as Project Maven.

“While I was at Blue Horizons, a friend sent me an early draft of Maven’s charter. It looked difficult, exciting, and it spoke to those lingering feelings from Alaska. As an enterprise, we weren’t fast enough. We needed better tech to do more in the data-rich world we had created, and the proposed solution of ‘more people’ was likely not going to be the answer. Maven was exactly the type of job I was looking for.”

“So, at about the half-way point of Blue Horizons, a mentor reached out to Lt. Gen. Shanahan and suggested that I might be a great fit for the Maven team. I’m thankful that he agreed. Maven turned out to be a true adventure despite difficulties and challenges of every kind. I remain proud of that experience. We had direction and a charter from the Deputy Secretary of Defense to accelerate the development and deployment of AI technology to the entire DoD. Under Marine Corps Col. Drew Cukor’s amazing leadership, we were purposefully postured to be disruptive trailblazers…and we took a lot of pride in that.”

Following his two years at Maven, Floyd spent a year at the National Geospatial-Intelligence Agency as the military deputy for NGA’s AAA team. Floyd helped create a roadmap that laid the foundation for NGA’s approach to AAA technologies. He took his experience of learning about and working with AI and technology integration to the 694th ISRG. 

“I assumed command of the 694th ISRG in June 2020,” said Floyd. “Of course, COVID challenged everything, but that said, we were able to bring AAA thinking and several projects into our building and help with that vital mission. It was a great joy watching Airmen take ownership of some of the different algorithms and automation capabilities that we worked on. Human machine-teaming starts with shared understanding and trust. The more humans understand the AI tools they are given, the more they learn to trust AI tools to do the things they are designed to do.”

“In every aspect of Air, Space, and Cyber operations, across every career field, we have the ability to generate and collect enormous amounts of data,” Floyd said. “We are already fighting our way through a tsunami of data, so the question is, ‘How do you derive insight from that data at a speed that’s relevant to operations and decision-makers?' That’s our fundamental challenge.”

Floyd brings to the AI Accelerator his understanding of AI’s capabilities and current limitations, and the potential impact AI can have across the DAF. When asked where he thinks the AI Accelerator needs to go from here, Floyd said “the AIA stood up in 2019 through this tremendous partnership with MIT and Lincoln Lab. Our focus has been on dual-use fundamental AI research. Those initial efforts are bearing fruit and some of the research is pointing us in directions that could possibly change the AI world as we now know it. Programmatically, we are over three years into a five year agreement. So my focus is continuing our core efforts in fundamental research while also finding ways to prototype, test, and ultimately transition this program’s discoveries to warfighters. We can absolutely do those things while simultaneously coordinating with our partners at MIT and with our DAF senior leaders as our respective institutions consider extending the Accelerator beyond the initial five year agreement.”

“I’m thrilled to be here,” Floyd said. “I have unfinished business with AI and bringing AI capability to the DAF. I’m excited to see where we can go as a team at the Accelerator. From what I’ve seen so far, there is a very real chance that the work our team is doing with MIT could change everything we think we know about how to develop and deploy AI in operations. We are going to make AI better for Airmen and Guardians…and the potential for impacts don’t stop there. I am incredibly thankful for the mentors that put me on this path, and for the senior leaders who have trusted me with this opportunity.”