It’s no secret that artificial intelligence has sent the federal government into a tailspin in recent months. Aside from countless hearings to discuss AI’s benefits and dangers in the coming years, the most influential companies in the industry recently formed the Frontier Model Forum, designed to guide the ‘safe and responsible’ development of frontier AI models.
One of the primary concerns legislators hold is the potential erosion of data privacy and security. AI can devastate the everyday consumer in the hands of a bad actor, enabling intrusions and cyberattacks at a previously unimagined scale. While these concerns are certainly valid and must be addressed, legislators must recognize how beneficial AI can be to the overall national security strategy. By taking a thoughtful and measured approach to implementing AI within the federal government’s defense strategy, the federal government can take this technology and turn it around for good.
How AI can supplement national security
In many industries, proponents of AI have argued that the technology can support menial tasks to free up employees’ time to focus on value-added activities. While this is certainly true in the federal sector, AI also offers several other national security benefits.
Intelligent fraud detection: AI-powered detection systems can improve monitoring capabilities like facial recognition, object detection and behavioral analysis. This can help identify potential threats, track individuals of interest, and secure critical infrastructure.
Decision Support Systems: AI can also analyze complex data sets, conduct simulations and provide predictive analysis, which is valuable for intelligence agencies, military planning, and policy formulation.
Operational Enhancement: As noted above, AI can also help remove the manual burden placed on employees to free up their time for higher-priority tasks. At the same time, AI can provide more operational awareness with a real-time understanding of the domain space.
Discussions around AI at the federal level have primarily focused on potential drawbacks, but the conversation is now shifting to how agencies can safely implement the technology. And to realize the extensive benefits it can provide to national security, figuring out how to get started is critical.
There are already discussions at the federal level on AI’s role in national security moving forward, especially in the Office of Science and Technology Policy. However, a gap remains in how best to make this happen. Where can we start, and what needs to happen to lay the correct groundwork?
Fortunately, there are several measures that the federal government can take to get started, all of which are especially important to maximizing the potential AI offers.
Cybersecurity: Perhaps most importantly, the government must adopt a robust information security program, specializing in the risks associated with AI, to maximize the types of national security missions and initiatives where it can be deployed safely. AI can strengthen cybersecurity defenses by automating threat and anomaly detection and response, and protecting against emerging threats in real time.
Research and development: Governments should invest in AI research and development to drive innovation and advance capabilities in areas relevant to national security. This includes funding initiatives, collaborations with academia and the industry, and incentivizing AI talent to foster breakthroughs.
Partnerships: Public-private partnerships can leverage expertise and resources for national security applications through knowledge sharing and technology transfer. This is already underway in the Frontier Model Forum, but specialized national security partnerships will also be necessary.
Data sharing and standards: Across agencies, ensuring standards for data interoperability, security and privacy is vital to facilitate effective AI integration across national security domains.
Ethical considerations: Developing ethical frameworks and guidelines for AI use in national security is essential. With them, ensuring its safe implementation is possible. Addressing potential biases, ensuring transparency, respecting human rights, and establishing accountability mechanisms are all key first steps.
Training and education: Agencies should invest in AI education and training programs for national security professionals to enhance their understanding and utilization of AI technologies, helping them leverage tools more effectively to make informed decisions.
International Cooperation: Last but certainly not least, the U.S. should collaborate with other nations on AI-related research, development and policy frameworks. This is a global initiative, not just a domestic one, and establishing norms for responsible AI use across the globe will improve synergies.
Many federal agencies have already embraced automation for process efficiency. State-of-the-art AI and machine learning can help improve the throughput of various manual processes, such as document processing, to make for a better citizen experience and more effectively allocate resources. In the years ahead, the rapid advancement of AI brings a huge opportunity to leverage technology for national security as well.
Federal agencies should consider potential risks and challenges to maximize AI’s benefits to our national security, including ethical dilemmas, possible misuse and unintended consequences.
Striking a balance between security goals and ethical considerations is crucial for the responsible and effective implementation of AI technologies.