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Federal research nonprofit opens lab for evaluating artificial intelligence at Tysons HQ

Elected officials and Mitre leaders cut a ribbon to celebrate the opening of Mitre’s AI Discovery and Assurance Lab in Tysons (courtesy Office of Senator Mark Warner)

When you have concerns about an artificial intelligence-based technology, who are you going to call? For many federal government agencies, the answer is now the Mitre Corporation.

The not-for-profit research organization launched a new AI Assurance and Discovery Lab at its Tysons headquarters yesterday (Monday) with a ribbon-cutting ceremony attended Virginia Sen. Mark Warner and Reps. Gerry Connolly and Don Beyer.

Staffed by Mitre’s scientists and engineers, the lab will help federal agencies and, in the future, private companies assess the risks, security and effectiveness of AI systems that could be used in health care, national security, transportation and other fields, according to a press release.

“Government use of AI will have consequential impacts on the nation and world,” Mitre Senior Vice President and Chief Technology Officer Charles Clancy said. “…However, in adopting these systems, we also need to mitigate risks. Providing an independent assessment of the security, safety, and efficacy of AI systems will play a critical role toward helping government and business realize the transformational power of AI in benefits processing, intelligence analysis, autonomous vehicles, and more.”

Clancy added that the lab is envisioned as “a blueprint for a national network of AI assurance facilities.”

Founded in 1958 in Bedford, Massachusetts, where it still maintains a headquarters, Mitre was started by MIT to develop and manage an air defense system designed to detect potential Soviet missiles. Now bringing in a reported $2.2 billion in revenue, the contractor has helped build everything from facial recognition tools for the FBI to a contact-tracing system used during the COVID-19 pandemic, according to a Forbes profile.

The new lab inside the Mitre 4 high-rise at 7525 Colshire Drive will provide a space for testing AI technology, which is already being used by federal agencies to analyze drone photos, study volcanoes and match job seekers with openings, among other reported examples.

“The opening of MITRE’s AI Assurance and Discovery Lab is an exciting development in the most fertile frontier of technological progress — extracting maximum value from AI while mitigating some of its risks,” Warner said in a statement. “We need to have an all-hands-on-deck approach to studying and unleashing the potential of AI, and I look forward to seeing the discoveries and progress the lab will be able to make in this critical field.”

According to the press release, the lab’s physical space can be customized “for specific mission scenarios and workflows.”

The facility will be supported by more than 200 staff members from Mitre’s AI and Autonomy Innovation Center, according to AI Assurance Solutions Lead Miles Thompson, who oversees the lab. The space can accommodate 50 people at a time and “thousands of remote connections.”

“Federal agencies, and soon private companies, can bring AI-enabled systems to the lab to explore potential risks including whether they perform effectively, consistently, and safely in real-world contexts,” the release said. “MITRE will also use the lab to evaluate factors such as whether systems are secure and free from harmful bias, and allow users to control how their information is used.”

Connolly said Mitre’s lab will be “invaluable” for helping the government adopt AI “with the proper guardrails in place,” while Beyer noted that it suggests Northern Virginia will “continue to lead the way on tech innovation.”

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