Senator Joni Ernst Speaks about Artificial Intelligence

Senator Joni Ernst remarks at the National Security Commission on Artificial Intelligence, November 5, 2019.

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Ernst from Iowa, if you would please join me in welcoming the senator to make some remarks.

Oh, good afternoon, everyone, how’s the day going for you?

Audience chatters.

Very good. Good, excellent, thank you. I’m Joni Ernst, and I am the junior senator for the great state of Iowa, I have the great honor of serving my constituents in an area, of course, that I think many of us are very concerned about, and that’s exactly why you’re here today. But again, thank you Katerina, very much, for the warm introduction, and it is a privilege to help kickstart this commission, and I look forward to keeping up with all the great work that you will be doing. It is truly incredible that such a promising technology like AI can touch so many sectors of our society, from government to academia, and many other areas in between. And as a member of the Senate Armed Services Committee, I viewed much of the development of AI through the lens of national security. AI and machine learning are rapidly growing fields with potentially significant implications for our national defense. The 2018 National Defense Strategy outlines eight key capability areas that require modernization in order for our military to maintain or regain our war-fighting advantage, and one of those areas is the advancement of autonomous and artificially intelligent systems. I am glad the Department of Defense is diligently implementing these recommendations and already developing AI for military functions to support many mission areas to include intelligence collection and analysis, logistics, command and control, and semi-autonomous and autonomous systems. It is clear that Congress has the ability to further help shape the development of AI. Within the Senate Armed Services Committee, I sit on the Readiness Subcommittee and also chair the Subcommittee on Emerging Threats and Capabilities. These are complementary subcommittee assignments, especially when it comes to technologies such as artificial intelligence. AS ETC chairman, I have held hearings and directed attention to emerging technologies like AI and our efforts to ensure the DOD is well-positioned to outpace our adversaries and maintain a strategic advantage in these key technologies. On the readiness side, just last week I was asked how the US military can recruit and retain its next generation of leaders, and I believe when our patriotic young men and women raise their right hands to pledge their lives to our national defense, we have the responsibility to ensure that they are equipped with the best and the newest of technologies. AI has already been incorporated into military operations in Iraq and in Syria. We now have to look beyond the fight against global terrorism and assess how we match up in the area of increasing great-power competition. Russia continues to develop AI applications in robotics and other sectors, and it is also no secret that China seeks to displace the United States in many areas. In 2017, China released a plan to assume the global lead in AI development by 2030. By leveraging military-civil fusion to realize these goals, China has poured millions into Chinese Communist party-run, state-owned enterprises, so a question often posed is how can the United States counter this level of investment? We cannot match dollar for dollar, nor do we engage in IP theft or forced technology transfers, but we can ensure the strength of American academia and its private sector. From our coasts to America’s heartland, our universities and technical schools create a pipeline of innovators ready to spearhead our nation’s technological leadership. It is our job in Congress to equip our agencies with the correct tools and adequate authorities to engage these innovators and to bring on board the best and the brightest to ensure we stay well ahead of the pack. Our strength also lies in our global network of partners and allies, those who share our values and are committed to freedom of thought. This cooperation sets the stage for the ethical use of the AI applications. It also ensures that we continue to drive the development of AI in such a way that provides global benefits, while preserving our shared values for decades to come. Through my role in Congress, I will continue to look for ways to open up those avenues of cooperation and bolster our partnerships around the globe, and that way we can prove to our enervators, to our men and women in uniform, that we are 100% behind them. I remain confident in America’s continued leadership in AI development, and I commend the work the Commission and its partners are doing today. Thank you for allowing me just a few moments to share some thoughts with you. I certainly appreciate all the great work that you’re doing and look forward to spending more time with you in the future as we continue to work through the many challenges in a AI. Thank you all very much for being here today, and I look forward to many of the interesting partnerships yet to come, thank you very much for your time.

Thank you.

Yes, please.

[Woman] Thank you so much (slurs words) your time.

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