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China is beating US in AI, quantum computing & hypersonics while Pentagon is ‘hamstrung by large bureaucracy’: US Defense Intelligence conference

‘If we don’t realize how much and how rapidly technology is changing the operating environments, then we will lose. We. Will. Lose’: USAF Major General Daniel L. Simpson

USAF Major General Daniel Simpson speaking at DODIIS 2021
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China is beating the United States in AI, quantum computing, and hypersonics while the Pentagon is hamstrung by large bureaucracy and oversight, according to a US Air Force major general speaking at a Defense Intelligence conference on Monday.

In his remarks at the Department of Defense Intelligence Information System (DoDIIS) Worldwide Conference on Monday, United States Air Force Major General Daniel L. Simpson told the audience that China was outpacing the US in at least three key technological areas while bureaucracy in the US was creating a national security risk.

USAF Major General Daniel Simpson
USAF Major General Daniel Simpson

“If I said hypersonics, who is ahead in that game right now, United States or China? Yeah, it’s not us. AI and AI optimization? It’s not the United States. Quantum computing? It’s not the United States” — Major General Daniel Simpson

“We need to be very clear-eyed about the need for change,” said Simpson.

“First, there can be no doubt that technology is changing the character of warfare itself, and if we don’t realize how much and how rapidly technology is changing the operating environments, then we will lose. We. Will. Lose.”

“Secondly, our pacing challenger China, and our near-peer competitor Russia are pursuing rapid digital modernization efforts at speed and scale,” Major General Simpson added.

“To be clear, I use those terms deliberately, so pacing challenger and near-peer competitor.”

“China has been able to gain an advantage, so there’s no winning or losing in this one — this is either you’re ahead or behind, and there are certain areas right now that China is ahead” — Major General Daniel Simpson

After asking the audience what they thought about where the US stood in the competition with China, the US Air Force officer remarked:

“If I said hypersonics, who is ahead in that game right now, United States or China? Yeah, it’s not us.

“AI and AI optimization? It’s not the United States.

“Quantum computing? It’s not the United States.

“So, these are things we hadn’t thought about in the past. We’re so used to being number one.

“And with a very focused effort, China has been able to gain an advantage, so there’s no winning or losing in this one — this is either you’re ahead or behind, and there are certain areas right now that China is ahead.”

“If we don’t realize how much and how rapidly technology is changing the operating environments, then we will lose. We. Will. Lose” — Major General Daniel Simpson

Simpson went on to explain that the US is not taking a leadership role in developing and deploying cutting-edge technologies, and was instead simply adapting.

“We are situated to make change and inform change, but I’d argue currently we’re just adapting. We’re not leading, and we are doing it too slowly,” he said.

“Digital modernization is non-negotiable.”

Major General Simpson highlighted that collaborations between service and industry partners was necessary to deliver digital modernization at scale.

“Somewhere in the last decade we moved from the era of data scarcity to now an era of data abundance, and that has given us a new set of first-world problems,” he said.

“We now need better tools, technology, and tradecraft to make sense of all of the data to ensure we translate those solutions into digital, low-cost, high-tech warfighting capabilities to be employed at the tactical edge, wherever that may be and in any domain.

“This necessitates a culture of collaboration with service and industry partners to promote experimentation and rapid prototyping.”

“One might say we in the DoD are hamstrung by oversight and by a large bureaucracy that at times seems almost impossible to make sweeping changes, but we now fail to do so at our own national security risk, and that’s not a gamble any of us should be willing to make” — Major General Daniel Simpson

Emphasizing the need to modernize at speed, Simpson blamed bureaucracy as a major factor as to why the US was behind China.

“One might say we in the DoD are hamstrung by oversight and by a large bureaucracy that at times seems almost impossible to make sweeping changes, but we now fail to do so at our own national security risk, and that’s not a gamble any of us should be willing to make.

“We need to better engineer and acquire at the speed of relevance […] while also defending both our legacy or legendary and digital systems via cutting-edge cybersecurity and active cyber defense operations, but it’s going to take all of us, it’s going to be a team sport, so it’s going to take teamwork, it’s going to take partnerships and sustained investments.”

Organized by the Defense Intelligence Agency (DIA), the DoDIIS conference took place in Phoenix, Arizona from December 5-8 under the theme: “Foresight 20/20: Building a New Digital Ecosystem.”

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Tim Hinchliffe
The Sociable editor Tim Hinchliffe covers tech and society, with perspectives on public and private policies proposed by governments, unelected globalists, think tanks, big tech companies, defense departments, and intelligence agencies. Previously, Tim was a reporter for the Ghanaian Chronicle in West Africa and an editor at Colombia Reports in South America. These days, he is only responsible for articles he writes and publishes in his own name. tim@sociable.co