General Anthony Tata (former Deputy Commanding General of US forces in Afghanistan) laid out his concerns regarding America’s helplessness in a determined enemy’s cyber war inflicted on us, particularly the threat from the People’s Republic of China.
In the cyber warfare domain, many experts believe America faces a “Sputnik moment” as China plans to exceed US artificial intelligence capabilities by 2030.
China’s deliberate plan to accelerate artificial intelligence capabilities by 2020, catch up to the US by 2025, and surpass the US by 2030 is disconcerting in its forthrightness. China seems to have had its own “Sputnik” moment and has now developed its own project to become the world leader in artificial intelligence.
A critical difference between the Soviet Union’s “Sputnik moment” in near-earth orbit and the PRC’s “Sputnik moment” in artificial intelligence (and in cyber war capabilities generally), though, is that the Soviets’ moment heralded weapons to come, whereas the PRC’s moment will represent a weapon in being.
Beyond that, the pace of development and the pace of action once deployed are such that there is little time to catch up with the PRC (I think our lead is much smaller, if it exists at all today, than Tata does). The pace of action in the long runup to cyber war is not a matter of building out systems and deploying them, we race to build out and deploy our systems, and everybody yells, “King’s X.” Software doesn’t take weeks or months or years to deploy—it takes seconds. And we know that the PRC (and Russia) have been deploying malware in our systems against a future use; we keep finding such.
Nor is use a matter of launching missiles and several minutes later we respond with our counter-missile missiles and our own offensive launches. The launch of cyber weapons results in instantaneous paralysis of our detection systems, our weapons systems—both physical and cyber—our communications systems, our life-maintaining infrastructure systems.
Keep in mind, too, that this is an area where Alphabet and its Google subordinate entity have refused absolutely to help our own DoD work to develop capabilities, even purely defensive ones, in this area—at the same time that it’s actively helping the PRC to develop AI capabilities along with citizen-monitoring capabilities (which extends in a moment to monitoring foreign soldiers, sailors, airmen, marines wherever they may be).
President Xi Jinping’s Warring State won’t hesitate once he has the weapons.
Cyber—in all its forms, recognized today and unrecognized before tomorrow—is an area of national security in which we cannot afford to lag, ever. This is an area of national security in which we can’t even afford to have a small lead, ever.