United States Artificial Intelligence Policy: Building Toward a Sixth-Generation Military and Lethal Autonomous Weapon Systems
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The United States has entered a new period of great power competition. Rising powers in Russia and China form a complex triad at the head of the global power structure. Recent technological advancements in artificial intelligence further complicate this fluid international dynamic. Scholars, politicians and senior military officers have realized the incorporation of artificial intelligence is the genesis of a novel revolution in military affairs with the capacity to alter the strategic balance of power. The United States, encumbered by twenty years of counterinsurgency in the Middle East and hampered by a long-term artificial intelligence strategy that only extends to 2025, is ill-prepared to enter this “sixth-generation” of military capability in order to secure its strategic interests. This artificial intelligence enabled force will be defined by semi-autonomous and autonomous systems including lethal autonomous weapon systems. The first state actor to develop and field these weapons will obtain a strategic advantage over its competitors in this new era. While the US currently possesses an advantage in artificial intelligence, it is rapidly closing due to a lack of forward thinking and focused investment policy. This is a policy paper designed to address this gap. The Chinese military modernization model from the mid-1990s suggests a potential pathway for future US policies. While there are differences in government structure between the two nations, particularly the role and power of the communist party in government, several of the underlying principles can be applied within the framework of the US system. Therefore, the United States can ensure artificial intelligence primacy by developing sound investment policies, a focused technology development program and new concepts of operations designed to maximize new capabilities as they become available.