‘One Team, One Fight!’: Former DoD Official Highlights Urgency in US Fight to Maintain AI Superiority Over China

By Andrew Thornebrooke
Andrew Thornebrooke
Andrew Thornebrooke
Reporter
Andrew Thornebrooke is a freelance reporter covering China-related issues with a focus on defense and security. He holds a MA in military history from Norwich University and authors the newsletter Quixote Hyperdrive.
October 14, 2021 Updated: October 14, 2021

The Pentagon’s efforts to maintain a strategic advantage against China in the domains of artificial intelligence and machine learning are being undermined by bureaucratic waste and a lack of urgency, according to a former Department of Defense (DoD) cybersecurity official.

China isn’t behind, but is leading, and we are running out of time,” said Nicolas Chaillan, the former chief software officer for the Air Force and Space Force, in an email.

Chaillan resigned last month following the DoD’s decision to cancel funding for multiple cyber initiatives, including the Joint All-Domain Command and Control (JADC2) initiative, which would have integrated sensors from the Navy, Army, Air Force, Space Force, and Marines into one network.

In a Sept. 2 open letter on LinkedIn, Chaillan said that he and the Air Force’s chief information officer were being “unempowered” by senior military leadership, and prevented from completing even the most basic of IT issues.

He clarified in his comments to The Epoch Times that senior military leadership needed to get out of the way and stop preventing U.S. warfighters and private contractors from doing their jobs by providing needless hurdles.

“We need to stop over-classifying all this information regarding Chinese threats and advances in AI so U.S companies can be more aware and want to proactively join us in the fight,” Chaillan said.

“We need to invest in our warfighters, in training and empowerment at the lowest level so they can lead us to the answers and we can get out of their way,” Chaillan added. “We need to break silos and merge work across DoD services so that we stop wasting taxpayer money.”

Importantly, Chaillan said that he considers the Pentagon’s current technology predicament to be equally a crisis of leadership as it is one of technology, and that the military’s technological capacity would be blunted so long as the Pentagon refused to implement a shared network across the services.

“We must change the mindset and the secretary of defense must mandate the DoD services to merge their work across Cloud, connectivity, edge, and DevSecOps work and embrace best of breed capabilities like Platform One and Cloud One,” Chaillan said, referring to Air Force’s software development platforms. “One Team, One Fight!”

Chaillan also called for a mandate that would move the Pentagon to DevSecOps and agile methodology. DevSecOps is a design approach that implements security as a core part of the development cycle, alongside development and operations, for the entire lifespan of a project. Agile methodology refers to a popular method of developing and continuously improving IT projects in a cyclical method.

Such efforts, Chaillan said, were necessary to ensure that the DoD maintain “the pace of relevance.”

Notably, Chaillan also expressed that the Pentagon was not doing enough to make contractors comfortable in working with the military, and said that the decisions of big tech companies like Google to abandon government contracts were at least partially owed to a lack of transparency on behalf of the military.

“It’s not about blaming companies,” Chaillan said, “we do a poor job to share with them and their employees why this matters and that working with DoD would save lives and create better deterrence, which would potentially prevent disasters like we’ve seen recently in Afghanistan with the bombing of the wrong target and killing of innocent kids.”

Chaillan said that not all was lost in America’s fight to maintain AI superiority with China, but the window of opportunity to maintain that edge was closing. The United States’ only hope would be to quickly transform its cyber efforts in a tangible way by getting bureaucrats and careerists out of the way, and focusing on the real needs of warfighting, he added.

“We must ask Congress to take action and work with the DoD to create a real sense of urgency and stop investing in reports but instead invest in tangible outcomes and warfighting capabilities while embracing our values and care for ethics and privacy,” Chaillan said.

The Epoch Times has reached out to the Pentagon for a response to Chaillan’s comments.

Andrew Thornebrooke
Andrew Thornebrooke
Reporter
Andrew Thornebrooke is a freelance reporter covering China-related issues with a focus on defense and security. He holds a MA in military history from Norwich University and authors the newsletter Quixote Hyperdrive.