On March 1, 2021, the National Security Commission on Artificial Intelligence (NSCAI) released its 700-page Final Report (the “Report”), which presents NSCAI’s recommendations for “winning the AI era” (The Report can be accessed here). This Report issues an urgent warning to President Biden and Congress: if the United States fails to significantly accelerate its understanding and use of AI technology, it will face unprecedented threats to its national security and economic stability. Specifically, the Report cautions that the United States “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.”
In the Final Report, NSCAI makes a number of detailed policy recommendations “to advance the development of AI, machine learning, and associated technologies to comprehensively address the national security and defense needs of the United States.” The Report, its findings and recommendations all signal deep concern that the U.S. has underinvested in AI and must play catch-up in order to safeguard its future.
The Commission was established in 2019 as part of the Defense Authorization Act and is chaired by Eric Schmidt, the former CEO of Google, and vice-chaired by former Deputy Secretary of Defense, Robert Work. NSCAI is comprised of 15 commissioners who are technologists, business executives, academic leaders and national security professionals. Twelve of the commissioners were nominated by Congress, and three were nominated by either the Secretary of Defense or Secretary of Commerce.
The Report calls for expansive action by the U.S.to combat the critical national security threats posed by the growth of AI-capable adversaries. Notably, it highlights the perceived vulnerability of the United States’ economic and military power which, according to the Report, is threatened by its failure to adequately develop a comprehensive strategy to compete in the era of AI-accelerated competition and conflict. Specifically, as described in the Report:
“[T]he 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. 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.”
NSCAI calls for wide-sweeping policy changes deemed to be necessary for protecting national security. These recommendations include:
- Establishing a new Technology Competitiveness Council led by the Vice President to develop a comprehensive technology strategy and oversee its implementation;
- Passing a National Defense Education Act to address deficiencies across the American education system in fields critical to AI;
- Creating an immigration strategy for highly skilled immigrants with AI talent to study, work, and remain in the U.S.;
- Increasing funding for AI research and development to $32 billion per year by 2026;
- Reforming IP policy to preserve the United States’ leadership in AI and emerging technologies;
- Funding and incentivizing multiple sources of microelectronics fabrication in the United States; and
- Creating an Emerging Technology Coalition with U.S. allies to promote the use of emerging technology to strengthen democratic norms.
The NSCAI Report has thrown a spotlight on the urgent need for United States policy to address the future significance of AI in the realm of national security as well as U.S. economic interests. We will look to see how the Biden Administration and Congress use these recommendations to shape national policies going forward.
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