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Building a Framework to Accelerate the Adoption of AI for National Security

Posted Oct 06, 2021 | Views 2.4K
# TransformX 2021
# Fireside Chat
Mac Thornberry
Mac Thornberry
Mac Thornberry
U.S. House of Representatives, 1995 - 2021, Chairman @ Committee on Armed Services, 2015 - 2019

The Almanac of American Politics 2020 called Mac “one of Congress’ brainiest and most thoughtful members on national and domestic security issues,” and said that he “has long been at the forefront of national security issues.” USA Today said Mac has “experience in Washington, a rare long view and a reputation for serious, thoughtful problem-solving.”

Serving on the House Armed Services Committee throughout his time in Congress, Mac was its Chairman from January 2015 to January 2019, the first Texan of either party to hold this position. When House Democrats won the majority in 2018, he became the Ranking Member of the Committee. Mac also served on the House Intelligence Committee for 14 years.

Mac has a proven ability to oversee large organizations with complex missions and dive deeply into specific issues within the context of the broader picture and longer-term trends. Whether engaging with foreign officials or working with those across the political spectrum, he has demonstrated an ability to bring others together for a common purpose.

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The Almanac of American Politics 2020 called Mac “one of Congress’ brainiest and most thoughtful members on national and domestic security issues,” and said that he “has long been at the forefront of national security issues.” USA Today said Mac has “experience in Washington, a rare long view and a reputation for serious, thoughtful problem-solving.”

Serving on the House Armed Services Committee throughout his time in Congress, Mac was its Chairman from January 2015 to January 2019, the first Texan of either party to hold this position. When House Democrats won the majority in 2018, he became the Ranking Member of the Committee. Mac also served on the House Intelligence Committee for 14 years.

Mac has a proven ability to oversee large organizations with complex missions and dive deeply into specific issues within the context of the broader picture and longer-term trends. Whether engaging with foreign officials or working with those across the political spectrum, he has demonstrated an ability to bring others together for a common purpose.

+ Read More

Former House Armed Services Committee Chairman Representative Mac Thornberry will discuss the national security implications of adopting AI and ML capabilities with Scale’s Head of Federal, Mark Valentine. Mark and Mac will outline potential reforms within the national security community to accelerate adoption.

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Mark Valentine (00:27): Good morning, everyone, or I guess good afternoon, depending on where you are on the globe. Welcome to Transform X. My name is Mark Valentine, and I'm the lead of the federal team, here at Scale AI. I really appreciate you joining us here at Transform X. Hopefully you've been having a great series of sessions, I know this is going to be another one. So today, we're going to explore the nexus between artificial intelligence and the national security community with a very special guest, who has been doing this for a long time. So I'm really beyond excited to introduce Mr. William Mac Thornberry, who is the representative for the 13th district of Texas in the US House of Representatives from 1995 until 2021.

Mark Valentine (01:13): So by math, that's about 26 years. And through those 26 years, he was also the chairman of the House Armed Services Committee for six of those from 2015 to 2019. Sorry, four years. And he is widely respected throughout the national security community as an innovator, as a strategic thinker, and has been consistently on the leading edge of critical national security issues, such as artificial intelligence. For each of the years that he led the Armed Services Committee, he led a series of reforms to drive new technologies in the hands of war fighters, and to enhance the innovation enterprise throughout the Department of Defense.

Mark Valentine (01:52): He also led efforts to restore the readiness of America's armed forces, and he has been a steadfast supporter of the men and women of the US military who served, as well as their families. So, Mac, first off, as a veteran, who spent much of my military service during your tenure of Congress, I want to thank you on behalf of my family and my fellow war fighters for your advocacy, for your leadership, and for your service to the United States. And next, I just want to say thank you so much for taking your time to join us today. So, welcome.

Mac Thornberry (02:23): Well, thank you, Mark. And I appreciate you having me, and I appreciate what you and others have and continue to do for the country.

Mark Valentine (02:32): Well, thank you very much. So let's jump right in and start talking about AI in the context of national security. And you've spent your life's work doing this in Congress, and so you work there generally and specifically as chairman of the House Armed Services Committee. You focus on driving those new technologies and innovation into the hands of war fighters. What I find really interesting about this is you started this, this effort well before we had this renewed focus on great power competition, and we recognized that some of those competitors were emphasizing technologies like AI, excuse me, and machine learning. So what, what gave you that foresight? What, what, what tipped you off in, why did, why was this so important in your view to speed technology? And was there a moment that like crystallized it for you in your mind?

Mac Thornberry (03:26): Yeah, I, I don't know if there was a particular moment, but I've, I've always been interested in history and studied history. And, and what's clear from that is that it is hard for successful militaries to change. And, and that those who lose one war are often more motivated to make the changes, the reforms that are needed to, to, to win, to win the next one. And so from the beginning of my time in Congress, I've been interested in military reform. How do we make sure we don't end up being the losers? How can we generate the kind of innovation in our system that, that we need to?

Mac Thornberry (04:12): And I'd say the other, the second thing is I was very involved in creating the Department of Homeland Security. Right after we did that I chaired a subcommittee on cybersecurity. This was 2003. And so that gave me more exposure to what the private sector was doing in that area. And, and it became really clear that the government alone was not going to do what needed to be done. There had to be some sort of partnership. And we talked at that time about information sharing and a lot of the buzzwords that continue to this day. But I think really it was those two things, history and that early exposure on cyber that, that really motivated me to try to do what I could to, to bring these two sectors, if you will, together.

Mark Valentine (05:03): Yeah, very interesting. And you mentioned 2006, and so we're talking early two thousands. And when I think back to that time, and obviously here we are around the 20th anniversary of 9/11, it was a transformational moment to me. Which by the way, my wife and family and I had just moved from cannon air force base in New Mexico, and 9/11 was my first day at my new fighter squadron at Andrews air force base. And so I personally felt that transformation that ripped me out of one more fighting paradigm, which we're still riding high on this concept of desert storm. And all of a sudden it refocused it somewhere else. So, you know, we, you mentioned the Department of Homeland Security stood up, we were engaged and embroiled in this global war on terror. And so that led to the need for a certain pace of adoption in the technology space. But now we're focused on kind of great power competition, which in a way is kind of going back and, you know, we're in the cyclical nature. So do you think there's a difference we need in the pace of technology adoption for both of those different paradigms global war on terror on one hand and great power competition on the other?

Mac Thornberry (06:18): Yeah, probably so. I mean, when I, I think it, it is remarkable, I have to say the 20 years later, we have not had a repeat of 9/11. And that is because of the tremendous work of folks like you in the military, the intelligence community, law enforcement, and they all, they, y'all have always acted with a sense of urgency to prevent another attack. So, so there's a sense of urgency, but that's not really technology adoption. That's just knowing that that, that the stakes were high.

Mac Thornberry (06:52): But I do think you just made a point, the success of the Gulf war and, and what we now know, especially from the Chinese, but other adversaries, as well, is they were shocked by that success and decided they had to do something differently. And they have. And, and so, especially with the Chinese, with all of the resources at their disposal, with their whole of country approach, they have developed and, and, and fielded these technologies at an incredible, and stolen the, you know, these technologies, the intellectual property at an incredible pace. So it is absolutely true. We've got to act with a much greater sense of urgency. And, and I would say in, in just as one example, the, the sort of two year budget cycle that we're used to for DOD budgets is just not going to cut it with technology that changes this quickly and adversaries that are moving this quickly.

Mark Valentine (07:58): Yeah. You bring up a very point when you're talking about budgeting and the acquisition system writ large. I talked to many of my colleagues who are still in uniform and they bemoan the system. And I try to, to change the narrative a little bit where I talk about, well, if you really look at what the acquisition system was built to do it, it does okay. Whether that's buying an ICBM on an aircraft carrier or a large capital investment, but it doesn't seem like it is suited for some of the things that we're trying to do today, and the rapid adoption of technology space. Do you have any thoughts on ways we can make that better?

Mac Thornberry (08:33): Oh, yeah. And I think you're exactly right. If you remember back, it was McNamara that brought in basically our, our current budgeting system. And there have been some changes over the years, but it is, it was designed for a different time, for different kinds of, of investments, like you say. It was not designed for software, for example. And so I think there's got to be some greater flexibility in how that money is spent.

Mac Thornberry (09:05): And part of this is not just the department's internal processes. It's also the relationship with Congress too, because, you know, we can go through, Congress has not been really good at getting budgets on time. They have a sense of deciding exactly how money is going to be spent. And with technology moving this quickly, you can't, you don't have time to go through all that.

Mac Thornberry (09:29): So my point is some pool of money, for example, related to artificial intelligence, where there is greater flexibility in spending it with full transparency to Congress in how it is spent, seems to me to make sense. And that was one of the recommendations that the National Security Commission on Artificial Intelligence made in their report earlier this year.

Mark Valentine (09:55): Outstanding. Yeah. And I want to talk more about the National Security Commission here in a minute. But before I get there, I spent a lot of time in war college classrooms. And we often talked about this concept called a revolution in military affairs, which was a shift from one paradigm to another. And in many of those throughout history, history shows us that the military is often leading the way of that transformation. And that leads to then, what do you want to call them spinoff technologies or not, that end up having value in the commercial sector.

Mark Valentine (10:27): You and I are having a conversation today through an electronic means and a worldwide network that's called the internet that the US military led the initial efforts on, through, through DARPA. We talked about GPS. This started out as a commercial tech or sorry, a military technology that we now use widely throughout the commercial space, but AI seems different to me. It feels different. And when I took my uniform off and moved into the private sector, it opened my eyes into what was going on around the AI and ML world. So I guess if that is true, number one, do you, do you believe that the National Security Community is falling behind in, in that space? And if, if that is true, what do you think we can do to catch up?

Mac Thornberry (11:11): Yeah, I think you're right. And, and it is a fundamental change for us to have much of the innovation we need to defend the country, take place in the private sector, independent of government. I mean, government has always paid big contractors to, to research things for military purposes. But here we have a situation where technologies such as AI, but it's not the only one, robotics, a whole variety of things, are being led, the innovation is being led by the private sector. And the question is, can the government be, I want to say a good enough partner, a willing, can, can the two work together, or are the things we talked about, the budgeting and so forth just so fundamentally different that a private company say I don't need you and go about their own way building their commercial business case. I I'm afraid that if we let that happen, private companies go their own way, governments too hard to deal with, too many regulations, too slow, etcetera. If we let that go, we will lose the, the national security race that we're in with the Chinese.

Mark Valentine (12:34): Do you see any lessons throughout history that can tell us, or teach us something about the adoption of technology for national security?

Mac Thornberry (12:41): Yeah. And, and, and, and we mentioned it a few moments ago. If you look back throughout history, it's the losers that are motivated to change. Obviously they didn't do something right. So they have that motivation to, to change their system, change their practices, change their technologies so that they, they, they win the next time. One of my favorite quotes, and I won't have this exactly, I'll paraphrase, is Sir Basil Liddell Hart says there is always a gap between the development of new technologies and their adoption by militaries, but the fate of nations is decided in within that gap. In other words, how long does it take you to, to wake up and, and to take advantage of whether it's a new tactic or a new technologies? And, you know, you can think of Blitzkrieg or all sorts of examples in the past, but it's that gap that decides the fate of nations.

Mac Thornberry (13:43): And, and I think that has never been more true than it is today at a time where so much of the innovation takes place outside of government and where technology is moving so quickly and where we have an adversary, unlike any we've ever had, because they can compete, not just militarily, but economically and in every other way. So I think it really, there really has to be a sense of urgency to, to make the changes in our system so that we can innovate at a pace where we can defend the country. And, and, and I think it's too close to call right now whether that's going to happen.

Mark Valentine (14:26): Yeah. But that's pretty sobering. So Mack, you mentioned that we've, we've got to keep up, we need to make these investments. What happens if we don't? What are the implications of falling behind some of these other nations in this great power competition we find ourselves in, in the context of new technologies and war fighting concepts?

Mac Thornberry (14:48): Yeah. Well, I think the short answer is we lose. I would say my opinion is what national leaders, and I'll include myself in this, have not really done very well over the past 20 something years or longer is, is to explain or remind the American people, how our daily lives are affected by our having the strongest military in the world, setting the pace for this, this global security system, having freedom of the seas, where we can ship our, our products, whether it's, you know, cotton or beef or medical supplies or whatever it is. There are so many aspects of the ways that our daily lives are better, are longer, are richer because of the military and our engagement in the world. And I don't think we have done a very good job of reminding people of that.

Mac Thornberry (15:53): After World War II, we, the Americans, at that time knew it. They saw the catastrophic result of withdrawal and isolation after World War I. It helped lead to World War II. They decided not to make that mistake. They created the Department, the Department of Defense and the CIA and the International Monetary Fund, and, you know, all of these organizations to, to be engaged. But over the, we've been so successful, back to the point that, that winners are often lackadaisical. We've been so successful over the past 60 years, that I'm afraid we've forgotten some basic truths. And so if, if we don't wake up, then our kids and grandkids in the United States of America are going to live in a darker, more dangerous, less prosperous world. And, and I think that's kind of the bottom line.

Mark Valentine (16:50): Wow, that's, thank you Mac for that assessment. I tend to agree. And I think in, excuse me, in many ways, we're watching some of this play out in areas like the Arctic right now, and in many other theaters. And hopefully we can wake up soon, which leads me to the next question. You mentioned earlier the, the Chinese and this whole of nation concept. So I had the opportunity to spend some time as a military advisor at FEMA. And in the context of natural disasters, we used to talk about the whole of government approach. So put simply, do you think we can win this competition that we find ourselves in, whether we want to be or not to be in it, without the commercial sector and government collaboration in these new technologies?

Mac Thornberry (17:38): Yeah, of course not. One of our strengths as a country, as a people is the innovation that occurs in the private sector. And unless we can take advantage of that great strength, then we're not going to be successful. I think there's no question. You know, we have talked, especially for me since 9/11, about a whole of government approach. Basically that means the Defense Department talking to the State Department, talking to the Department of Homeland Security.

Mac Thornberry (18:12): Some people point out the Chinese go that way, go one step way above that. And that is not a whole of government approach, but a whole of country approach. And obviously in their authoritarian system, they can direct or, or pilfer private so-called private companies in any way they want to.

Mac Thornberry (18:35): I think what we've got to do is, is have that voluntary partnerships between government and the private sector that can take advantage of this great national strength of ours. And as we were talking a while ago, if we make it too hard for these private companies, they can be successful on their own. If we make it too hard for them to deal with the government, they're not going to go, they're not going to, and, and, and we will not be able to take advantage of the innovation that they, they provide.

Mark Valentine (19:09): Indeed, and, you know, I find myself working at one of these smaller, innovative tech companies right now here at Scale AI. And the, the mission to me is very clear. But if I were to start another company, right, or if there's a young entrepreneur out there, why should they be concerned about working with the Department of Defense or the Intel Community, if they can make so much money somewhere else?

Mac Thornberry (19:33): Yeah, well, partly I have to say it's patriotism because I've, since I've been away from Congress, I've had a greater opportunity to see firsthand some of these new young, innovative companies like you're talking about. And I can I tell you it's incredibly inspirational. Some of them are trying to make it work, just dealing with government. I would say most of them are trying to use dual use technologies that are applicable for government, but also the commercial sector, figuring that that gives them a better chance of success.

Mac Thornberry (20:10): But, but it, it's, it's incredibly, as I say, inspirational and encouraging to see folks like that, you know, I can make a moral argument that it is this country and its system that gives you the opportunity to create a company and make it successful. And you have an obligation to give back, to contribute to that, which enables your, your success. But, but it's also true that if you're successful in develop government customers, as well as commercial, you can do better financially, you have a diversity of income sources, for example, and along the way you contribute to defending the country and the system that has allowed us to be so great. So I, I think that's the trend that a lot of people want to take. The question is, you know, how hard do we make it? And, and will they be allowed to be successful?

Mark Valentine (21:15): Indeed. Thank you. That, that was great. And I have to tell you, I agree with you a hundred percent. It has been my honor through my private sector service, as well as my public sector service to serve this nation. So I hope more people choose to do so. So Mack, we've been talking so far about AI in the context of national security, more focused on the, the why it's important and what it really means. So I'd like to shift if we could and transition to talk about maybe how we can get there. We've, we've talked about this a little bit, but I'd like to get a little deeper into it and specifically to some roles that people can play.

Mark Valentine (21:53): So throughout your service in the U S Congress, your committee author. So mine was an established what you mentioned before, which is the National Security Commission on Artificial Intelligence, but that was in 2018. And recently here in 2020, late 2020, that commission released or published its final report. They had several recommendations, very specific actions that the executive and the legislative branches could do to resource these efforts, to invest in them, workforce development, acquisition reforms, and organizational forms. So since you were involved in that, why did the committee draft that legislation to begin with?

Mac Thornberry (22:33): You know, sometimes people maybe rightfully criticized Congress for setting up too many commissions and so forth, but when you see one that works well, it really is a great benefit for not only Congress, but for the nation. And I'll tell you, I think in this case we were, it, it was better to be lucky than good because this one was, has been tremendously helpful. I, I would say the reason we did it to begin with is because we got the sense that this thing called artificial intelligence or AI was galloping ahead technologically far faster than the laws or policies related to it. And, and we needed some smart people to help us get our arms around what's happening, where is it headed and what are the sorts of legal policy issues that, that we need to be thinking about? And, and I'd say the other reason though, is because we had one eye on what the other guys were doing.

Mac Thornberry (23:44): And it was pretty clear that the Chinese, as one example, we're putting a major emphasis on artificial intelligence and we needed a fresh, independent look, away from government and, and in an area again, where the private sector was leading as, as we were talking about while I go. And, and, and so we created it and you know, this is one of those commissions where different people make different appointments and you never know how they're going to come together. But I tell you, you look at this group of people from chairman, Eric Schmidt to co-chairman or vice chairman, Bob Work, the, some of the best people on that commission or country were on that commission. And I think did a terrific job in making specific recommendations.

Mac Thornberry (24:38): And I would say two takeaways that I'll just mention that were kind of a wake-up for me. Number one is the sense of urgency about how far behind we are versus others versus where we should be. And, and we don't have any time to waste. The second one is all the things we need to do to be ready for AI. And, and you know, a lot of it, it may not be kind of the glamorous part of AI, the gee whiz stuff. But if you don't have data that can be read by these algorithms, then you can't make use of it and AI can't make use of it, and you can't take advantages of it.

Mac Thornberry (25:18): So I think having people who were so familiar with, with how this works with what we need and, and saying, for example, DOD has got to get their basic infrastructure together and including their data ready, but also their, their systems and so forth. I think that gave some specifics that were really helpful for Congress, for their department. And, and one other thing, the, the VAT thing with AI is, is the values issue. So what you'll have people say is the Chinese are going to have autonomous weapons that basically fire at will, no human in the loop. Are we going to have to match this? I think the AI commission did a great job in analyzing how we can move ahead in AI, but stay true to our values, not become like the authoritarian sorts of regimes, but, but also not lose in this competition.

Mark Valentine (26:21): Indeed. Yeah. The ethical use of AI, I know has been a, an important issue that the, the US federal government and the departments and agencies are focused on as well as several firms within the private sector. So you're exactly right. I want to get back to something you said about the importance of data. I agree with you a hundred percent, but I have to admit though, during my service in the military, when people were talking about artificial intelligence, I had this vision in my head that it was almost like a boxed product that I could buy and I could get two of these AI's and one of those AI's and sprinkle it on something and it would solve my problem. And I've gotten a little smarter if not wiser over the last several years that I've spent in this industry. And now I recognize the importance of, of a term that I heard a lot before, which is data is the new oil.

Mark Valentine (27:14): So much, like you've talked about data and infrastructure being important. You know, I've kind of used the, the oil production analogy for, for AI, where you start with drilling, you know, the substance from the ground and refine it. And then eventually you can burn it and do something useful with it. Data tends to be in that same way, where we have to pick it up, we have to refine it, which is turning it into models. And this is a continuous process. And so I do think the commission that, that you kicked off has done a wonderful job, educating many of our government leaders and recognizing that that is a process that is not a thing. So I personally want to thank you for, for teaching me and teaching many of our government leaders, but that's what we're going to have to do. So with that said, Mac, if you could go back and look at the commission report, what do you think are the most top one or two critical things that the Department of Defense and the Intel Community need to do immediately to start implementing some of those recommendations from the commission?

Mac Thornberry (28:14): Yeah, well, I, I should say Mark, that the commission smartly, in my opinion, came out with some interim regulations or interim recommendations before. And so we adopted a number of those in last year's defense authorization bill. And then as, as we've been talking, they came out with her final report earlier this year. I'm hoping that a number of those recommendations get adopted by Congress in one way or another this year. As, as all of these technical related commissions, they put a major emphasis on workforce, on education. You know, how do we get the kind of people we need into this field? And how do we educate lay-people about the, how, how this works? Back to your point about some kind of basic how AI works. So, so they talked a lot about that, but I think that to your question, the thing that they recommend that is the most urgent that we've got to do now is get ready, get our systems ready to get our data ready for AI uses today.

Mac Thornberry (29:31): Two things jumped to my mind. We get, have gotten lots of flack over the years because the Department of Defense could not pass an audit. So you dig into why couldn't you pass an audit? Well, because they have so many different systems that are not compatible that can't talk to each other. You can't get that holistic look. And I think about that when we're talking about AI. If you've got systems that are not compatible, if you've got data that, that can't be read, or can't be utilized, then it's useless. And, and so getting our act together with, again, this may not be the most glamorous part of AI, but getting our data ready, getting our systems is to me and to the commission, the essential thing we've got to do now to be ready for all the applications of AI that can make, make such a difference.

Mac Thornberry (30:25): The other thing, just to keep in mind again, with one eye on us, one eye on the adversary is the Chinese have all these systems of raking in incredible amounts of data and including stealing some of it from us. But, you know, they have surveillance cameras everywhere. They have this system of grading all their citizens based on how cooperative they are. So they are accumulating massive amounts of data. There, there are those who think the Chinese will inevitably when the AI race, because they will have more data than anybody else. Now, I don't know that that's true. I think the innovation is in the United States. But it is true, back to your point, that if data is always available, then we have to have at least enough that is usable that we can train our systems, that we can operate, we can take advantage of these AI applications. And, and so I think that urgency of being ready, having our systems where they can take advantage of these cool applications, that's the biggest takeaway I get from the commission.

Mark Valentine (31:35): Absolutely well, and I don't even want to try to go toe to toe with a Texan on oil, but if we're going to continue this analogy with the oil and to further your point, I am confident that there is a difference in different grades of oil. And there's this concept of energy density in oil. And we all know there's a difference between west Texas intermediary and some of the other slugs you might get. So I hope that we can find ways and tools to, to have our data be of higher density. And this is where I honestly believe that the concept of ethics in AI will play out over the long run. And that's my hope.

Mac Thornberry (32:15): Yeah, no, it it's a great point. And I don't, one of the reasons this is challenging is because of many of the things we're talking about, most people in the public don't really think about and, you know, they, they use their iPhone and they take advantage of, of, of AI in various ways.

Mac Thornberry (32:36): But at the same time, it is relatively easy, it seems, to scare people sometimes on things with misinformation. And, and we have seen evidence that foreign adversaries are more than happy to either create it or exploit it when that happens. And so again, another reason that the commission was so important is to have this kind of baseline discussion about what's true, what's not, what we need to watch out for, to help reduce the chances of misinformation, say, you know, the, the Chinese or the Russians, try to get everybody scared about something which could set back our AI efforts in ways that they could not achieve directly. We could do it to ourselves. So, so some sort of a baseline as well as some sort of maybe a little more elevated discussion, I think is going to be important for our democracy dealing in this sort of relatively technical area.

Mark Valentine (33:42): Indeed, indeed. Hey, I'm going to take one quick step back. So in the last question I asked, Hey, what are kind of the next steps for the Department of Defense and the Intelligence Community based on the national security commissions reports. What about Congress? What do you think their next step should be?

Mac Thornberry (34:00): Well, Congress needs to be a real partner with the things that we were talking about. You, in other words, your DOD is only going to get their systems updated if they've got the money to do it. And it's tempting to kind of take some money out of DOD's IT budget, for example. Congress needs to be really careful about the consequences of, of that.

Mac Thornberry (34:25): So, so some of it is particular funding, particular oversight of programs, but the other thing for Congress is to be the forum and have a bunch of hearings on what you and I were just talking about, where the country is on AI, what our challenges are, what how to have ethical AI use for the military, the intelligence community for the other parts of government. Congress can be a real, not just an educator, but a, a place where different views can come together and help formulate a national consensus. And especially with something as fundamental as AI is, because it's going to permeate every thing in our lives, something that is subject to misinformation, something that is moving so quickly. I think that kind of convening educational role for Congress is really important.

Mark Valentine (35:21): Oh, that's great. And Mac, I think that sets up this kind of my last question towards to you very well. And, you know, I want to go back to some time I spent in war college classrooms in the Department of Defense. We talked about elements of national power in this framework of DIME messy, right? So diplomatic, informational, military and economic. And so far this conversation, you and I have talked primarily about the military element of power and a little bit around the informational element of power, but you've been vocal in the past talking about the benefits of technology to other portions of the American national power and economic appears to be a huge one. So, do you have any other additional thoughts on the benefits these technologies could bring to our economic sphere, specifically like agriculture energy production areas like that?

Mac Thornberry (36:14): Well, I think it is more true now than it's ever been, that you can't really separate national security and, and economics. You talked earlier about some of the economic derivatives from our government efforts, the internet and GPS and, and, and so forth. And then we've been talking about, okay, the national security derivatives from commercial technologies, they are more integrated than they've ever been. And, and, and, you know, clearly for example, agriculture, there are more sensors keeping track of the state of the land than there ever have been. I mean, it's a little mind boggling for me having grown up on a ranch in the Texas panhandle to see these farmers connecting to these satellites, to determine how much fertilizer goes, you know, where on, on, on their fields. But if you think about it, that's creating a lot of data. And what do you do with data? How can you make sense of it that gets back to AI implications?

Mac Thornberry (37:23): You know, I, I think healthcare is maybe one of the best examples where we're getting all this data for not just COVID, but all sorts of things. We've got to have a way to make sense of it. AI gives us some enormous tools, not just in dealing with disease, but in preventing disease. And, and so, you know, the list could, could go on and on. I think the key point is we are used in the United States to saying, okay, this is military and government, this is the private sector and the economy, they're different. But they're not so much anymore. They are very closely connected.

Mark Valentine (38:07): Indeed. Awesome. Well, Matt, thank you so much for your time today. I want to give you a few minutes. Do you have any parting shots or maybe something I forgot to ask you or something you'd like to convey to the audience before we get going today?

Mac Thornberry (38:20): No, I appreciate it, Mark. I appreciate this conversation. And, and I, with all of the challenges we've been talking about, there is no country in the history of the world that brings all of the advantages that the United States of America does today. We are tested unlike we have ever been before, but it's up to us to decide how we're going to proceed. It's I, I worry a lot less about what the Chinese can do to us than I do about what we do to ourselves, you know. And, and so I guess the point is that our, our future is in our hands and, and the development of AI technologies is just one example of, of how we can create the future. We just got to be willing to do so. And I think we will, but it depends on the decisions we make.

Mark Valentine (39:12): Excellent. Well, Matt, thank you so much. And thanks again for your time today. This has been an awesome session. One that I personally have learned a great deal from, and I'm sure that our audience has as well. So again, thank you for your time and thank you for your service to the United States of America. I really do appreciate it.

Mac Thornberry (39:30): Thanks for having me.

Mark Valentine (39:31): Thank you Mac. And to the audience, thank you again for your time and attention, and I hope you're enjoying Transform X and I hope to see you all soon.

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