Secretary of Homeland Security Alejandro Mayorkas in a speech to the Council on Foreign Relations on Friday, announced the creation of a task group to explore AI capabilities that can detect and defend against national security threats, particularly those from China.
“Beijing has the capability and the intent to undermine our interests at home and abroad and is leveraging every instrument of its national power to do so, from its increasingly aggressive presence in the South China Sea to the overseas police stations used to harass and intimidate dissenters,” Mayorkas warned.
“A PRC invasion of Taiwan would have profound reverberations in the homeland, putting our civilian critical infrastructure at risk of a disruptive cyberattack,” he warned.
As a result, the secretary announced that his department will establish an Artificial Intelligence Task Force to drive AI technologies that could be valuable for homeland security operations.
One of the task force’s initial tasks will be to use AI to improve supply chains and broaden the trade environment.
AI will be used to filter cargo, detect commodities produced by forced labour (probably including China’s Xinjiang forced labour camps), and manage risk.
AI will also be used to detect fentanyl shipments and slow the drug’s entry into the United States.
Mayorkas challenged his audience to conceive severe dystopian possibilities in order to avoid falling victim to “failures of imagination” – as the US did prior to the 9/11 terrorist attacks.
The address was timed to coincide with the publication of the Third Quadrennial Homeland Security Review, a report that examines the evolution of homeland security threats since the department’s inception twenty years ago.
The most recent QHSRs were published in 2010 and 2014.
This iteration of the review adds combating human trafficking and other exploitation crimes to the department’s five existing missions: counterterrorism and threat prevention; border security and management; immigration administration; cyberspace and critical infrastructure security; and resilient national response to incidents.