US Falling Behind China in AI Development, Report Warns

US Falling Behind China in AI Development, Report Warns | CyberPro Magazine

(Source -Asia Times)

Report Highlights US Lag in AI

A recent report by Govini, a data analytics firm, reveals that the United States is rapidly falling behind China in AI development. This gap in AI capabilities poses a significant threat to the US in the event of a conflict with China’s People’s Liberation Army (PLA). The report, which evaluates federal government performance across 15 critical national security technologies, indicates that the US is not investing adequately in practical AI applications and remains stuck in the research and development (R&D) phase.

Govini’s CEO, Tara Murphy Dougherty, emphasized during a briefing that despite AI being a transformative technology, the Department of Defense (DoD) still treats it predominantly as an R&D endeavor. “It is well past time for DoD to stop treating AI like it is just a science project,” she asserted. The report found that in 2023, more than 65% of funding in nine out of 12 AI-related areas was still focused on R&D, leaving only a minority of these programs ready for production.

Strategic Risks and Technological Dependence

The report draws attention to the strategic risks the US faces due to its lag in AI technology. Last year’s findings already indicated that the US risked “weakness and dependence” as it struggled to keep pace with China. Dougherty highlighted that if China gains an AI advantage, it could make a potential US-China conflict unwinnable for the US. She noted that China could use AI in non-kinetic ways, such as hacking into the US energy grid, severely impacting military operations.

Despite the slow progress, Dougherty believes the DoD has the necessary capabilities to advance AI integration. She called for moving AI technologies from R&D to deployment in weapons systems and platforms, stressing the importance of using AI appropriately within military contexts. The report also underscored China in AI development, with more patents in 13 of the 15 critical technology areas. China’s acceleration in patent grants is part of its “14th Five Year Plan for Informatization Development,” positioning it ahead in technological dominance.

Parts Scarcity and Supply Chain Vulnerabilities

The report also highlighted a significant issue that could render a US-China conflict unwinnable: parts scarcity within major defense programs. The Armored Multi-Purpose Vehicle, Hawk Family helicopters, Virginia-class submarines, Arleigh Burke-class destroyers, Minuteman III ICBM, B-21 bomber, and F-35 fighter jet programs all face risks of parts shortages. These risks arise from limited inventory, reliance on single suppliers, and long lead times for replacements.

Dougherty pointed out that the lack of visibility into supply chains during the acquisition process is a major cause of this problem. Additionally, China in AI development significant presence in global supply chains exacerbates the situation. Although the Departments of the Navy and Army have reduced reliance on Chinese suppliers, the Department of the Air Force saw a 68.8% increase in using Chinese suppliers over the past year.

To mitigate these risks, Dougherty recommends diversifying supply chains with additional foreign suppliers while ensuring that the most sensitive components come from the US or allied nations. “Managing the presence of lots of different foreign suppliers and aligning those to the right level of capability is really what the call to action is,” she said. This strategy aims to create redundancy and protect critical parts, thereby reducing dependency on any single foreign source, especially China.

Also Read: Strengthening U.S. Critical Infrastructure Against AI Threats