US ‘unprepared’ to defend against new AI threats, report finds


The federal government is “unprepared” to defend the nation against new threats posed by the increased adoption of artificial intelligence technologies, according to a report released Monday.

The report, compiled by the National Security Commission on Artificial Intelligence, recommended that the U.S. implement a “significant change” to keep up with countries such as China and Russia in the field of AI to address national security concerns.

“The United States must act now to field AI systems and invest substantially more resources in AI innovation to protect its security, promote its prosperity, and safeguard the future of democracy,” the commission wrote.

“Today, the government is not organizing or investing to win the technology competition against a committed competitor, nor is it prepared to defend against AI-enabled threats and rapidly adopt AI applications for national security purposes,” it continued.

The report emphasized that with the increased use of AI by foreign powers to spread disinformation online and launch cyberattacks, the U.S. is falling behind in guarding against such threats.

“This is not a time for incremental toggles to federal research budgets or adding a few new positions in the Pentagon for Silicon Valley technologists,” the commission wrote. “This will be expensive and require a significant change in mindset. America needs White House leadership, Cabinet-member action, and bipartisan Congressional support to win the AI era.”

The commission was established as part of the 2019 National Defense Authorization Act, with the majority of its members appointed by Congress. Commissioners who worked on the report include representatives from Google, Microsoft, Amazon Web Services and Oracle as well as leading individuals in academia.

The report is meant to serve as a national strategy to outline a road map for federal leadership in the field of AI, in particular as a means to stay competitive against China and to integrate AI into the defense sector.

Key recommendations of the report include setting a goal of 2025 to achieve a “state of military AI readiness” and establishing a Technology Competitiveness Council at the White House headed by the vice president to help elevate AI across various fields.

Other recommendations include encouraging immigration to the U.S. for those who wish to study and work in the field of AI, establishing a U.S.-led “Emerging Technology Coalition” to work with allies and partners on creating democratic norms for AI and rebuilding domestic microelectronics manufacturing to stay ahead of China.

“We know adversaries are determined to turn AI capabilities against us,” the commissioners wrote. “We know China is determined to surpass us in AI leadership. We know advances in AI build on themselves and confer significant first-mover advantages. Now we must act.”

Eric Schmidt, the commission chairman and co-chairman of Schmidt Futures, testified before the Senate Armed Services Committee last week, urging Congress to adopt many of the report’s recommendations in order to compete globally and shore up the nation’s defenses.

“Right now, the United States is not playing to win,” he told lawmakers. “It is the Chinese who are competing to become the world’s leading innovators. Never before in my lifetime have I been more worried that we will soon be displaced by a rival or more aware of what second place means for our economy, our security and the future of our nation.”

“A bold, bipartisan initiative can extend our country’s technology advantage but only if we act now,” he added. “I leave you with the urgent message that for the American model to win, the American government must lead.”

The AI commission’s report was published a year after a similar group, the Cyberspace Solarium Commission, released its recommendations for defending the U.S. in cyberspace. Many of those recommendations, such as the establishment of a national cyber director at the White House, were included in the most recent annual defense policy bill.

Schmidt last week urged a similar path for his commission’s recommendations.

“I urge Congress again to adopt all of our AI Commission recommendations, which provide a clear blueprint to win a technology competition that is centered around AI,” he said during his testimony.

Tags A.I. Artificial Intelligence China Senate Armed Services Committee
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