The Foreign Service Journal, January-February 2024

12 JANUARY-FEBRUARY 2024 | THE FOREIGN SERVICE JOURNAL TALKING POINTS State Officials Talk AI on the Hill On Nov. 15, 2023, the Senate Foreign Relations Committee (SFRC) held a hearing on “U.S. leadership on artificial intelligence in an era of strategic competition.” Two State Department officials were invited to speak: Matthew Graviss, the department’s chief data and AI officer (CDAO), and Nathaniel Fick, ambassadorat-large for cyberspace and digital policy. Ambassador Fick told the SFRC that AI is “transforming every aspect of our foreign policy. Many traditional measures of strength, such as GDP or military capacity, are increasingly downstream from our ability to innovate in core technology areas. In that sense, technology innovation is driving more and more of what is, and is not, possible in our foreign and national security policy.” The hearing followed a flurry of recent activity related to the rapid development of AI technology. President Biden issued an executive order (E.O.) on the Safe, Secure, and Trustworthy Development and Use of Artificial Intelligence (14110) on Oct. 30. The order “establishes new standards for AI safety and security, protects Americans’ privacy, advances equity and civil rights, stands up for consumers and workers, promotes innovation and competition, advances American leadership around the world, and more.” It requires developers to share safety test results and “other critical information” with the U.S. government and orders the development of a “national security memorandum” to ensure the military and intelligence communities “use AI safely, ethically, and effectively in their missions.” As Graviss and Fick told the SFRC, the State Department was already working on developing AI standards before the E.O. was announced. In October 2023, the We see a booming demand for data and AI services across the department. Over the past three years, the Center for Analytics has received over 350 project requests from all corners of the department. Some of them promote foreign policy objectives while others bring about operational efficiencies. We’re positioning federal data science skills as close to the mission as possible. We’re already elevating our diplomacy and enhancing operational efficiencies. —Matthew Graviss, State Department chief data and AI officer, Senate Foreign Relations Committee hearing on artificial intelligence, Nov. 15, 2023. Contemporary Quote department published its “Enterprise Artificial Intelligence Strategy FY 2024-2025.” Secretary of State Antony Blinken wrote in the introduction: “As the United States works to advance a vision of effective, ethical, and responsible use of AI globally, it is important we lead by example in our use of AI here in the Department. Harnessing the benefits of AI to advance our foreign policy and increase management efficiency in the Department requires a secure and AI-ready technological infrastructure; the recruitment, upskilling, and retention of an AI-ready workforce; consistent, responsible governance and standards; and tangible deployment of AI to improve our operations.” Two weeks later, on Nov. 13, the department issued a press release announcing that 45 countries had signed onto an agreement to “launch the implementation of the Political Declaration on Responsible Military Use of Artificial Intelligence and Autonomy.” The initiative contains 10 specific measures intended to begin building an international framework of responsibility around AI development. Unfortunately, as the Centre for International Governance Innovation noted, Russia and China were “missing from the discussion.” In his remarks to the SFRC, Fick responded to concerns about Russia and China’s lack of involvement in the development of rules around the use of AI, saying, “When you’re running a race, sometimes it’s important to simply run faster than your competitor.” President Biden and People’s Republic of China President Xi Jinping discussed AI at a summit in California on Nov. 15— the same day as the SFRC hearing—and the two agreed to “address the risks of advanced AI systems and improve AI safety through U.S.-China talks.” Most observers see the chance of cooperation as slim. Ian Bremmer, president of the Eurasia Group, told The Washington Post that the U.S. and China “appear to be heading toward a technology cold war.” Google’s CEO Sundar Pichai urged cooperation between the U.S. and China, telling attendees at November’s Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation CEO Summit in San Francisco: “No way you make progress over the long term without China and the U.S. deeply talking to each other on something like AI. It has got to be an integral part of the process.” Presidents Biden and Xi meet in California on Nov. 15, 2023. WHITEHOUSE.GOV