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NSCAI Looks to Win AI Technology Competition

March 3, 2021

The National Security Commission on Artificial Intelligence (NSCAI) submitted its final report to Congress and the President on March 1, 2021, after a unanimous vote to approve. During the virtual public plenary session, which included a media availability, NSCAI Commissioners provided statements on the recommendations and took questions from the media and public. The public plenary and media availability can be viewed on the NSCAI YouTube channel.

“It’s important to realize that you can’t just flip a switch and have these capabilities in place, it takes steady, committed hard work over a long period of time to bring these capabilities to fruition,” said NSCAI Commissioner Andy Jassy, and fellow NSCAI Commissioner Ken Ford, said, “This report lays out an actionable path to an AI-enabled future.”

Over the past two years, the 15-member Commission representing a diverse group of technologists, business executives, academic leaders, and national security professionals, issued an initial report in July 2019, interim reports in November 2019 and October 2020, two additional quarterly memorandums, a series of special papers in response to the COVID-19 pandemic, and now a final report. The Commission worked in close collaboration with the Congress, the White House, and executive departments and agencies. The goal was to produce a comprehensive and enduring national approach to maintain America’s AI advantages related to national security. 

“We are asking for [the U.S. government] to break out of our traditional silos and work together. This is meant for our nation,” said NSCAI Commissioner Safra Catz.

The final report provides a strategy to get the United States AI-ready by 2025 and was divided into two parts:

  • Part I: “Defending America in the AI Era” recommended how the U.S. government can responsibly develop and use AI technologies to protect the American people and our interests. It focused on implications and applications of AI for defense and national security.
  • Part II:“Winning the Technology Competition” recommended actions the government must take to promote AI innovation to improve national competitiveness and protect critical U.S. advantages in the broader strategic competition with China.

The Commissioners focused on four pillars for immediate action:  

  • Leadership: Set up a Technology Competitiveness Council (TCC) at the White House and organize the Department of Defense and the Intelligence Community to defend America and win the technology competition.  
  • Talent: There is a huge talent deficit. The Commissioners believe there is need to build new talent and expand existing programs in government. And we want the world’s best to come, stay, and cultivate their talent in the United States.
  • Hardware: The United States is 110 miles from losing access to the vast majority of the cutting-edge microelectronics which power our companies and our military. We need to revitalize domestic semiconductor manufacturing and ensure we are two generations ahead of China. 
  • Innovation: The United States needs to sustain and increase investment in AI research to set conditions for accessible domestic AI innovation and drive the breakthroughs to win the technology competition through establishing a national AI research infrastructure and doubling Federal investments in AI R&D to reach $32 billion annually by 2026.

“The demand for AI talent and proficiency is expanding across all of the services, all of the cabinets, and all of the agencies” said NSCAI Vice Chair Bob Work.

The Commission also identified two themes that cut across these pillars: Partnerships and Responsible Development and Use of AI.

  • Partnerships: The U.S.’s allies and partners are a critical advantage over competitors. Reinvigorating the U.S.’s alliances must include ensuring the continued interoperability of our defense capabilities as we adopt AI-enabled and emerging technologies, as well as building coalitions with like-minded nations to advance the development and use of AI and emerging technologies in accordance with democratic values. 
  • Responsible Development and Use of AI: The United States should develop and field AI technologies responsibly and take steps to ensure that these technologies comport with and further democratic values. 

“We will need democratic allies in this competition and we must keep democratic values at the forefront of our decisions on using AI,” said NSCAI Chair Eric Schmidt. The Commission is an independent federal entity, and its goal is to complement and strengthen ongoing AI-related efforts in the executive branch and Congress, while also making additional recommendations to integrate artificial intelligence into national security programs. The Commission staff will continue to reach out to academia, industry, non-profits, associations, and government to discuss the recommendations made in the final report.

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