National Security

US Cybersecurity At A ‘Kindergarten Level’ Compared To China, Former Pentagon Official Says

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Ailan Evans Tech Reporter
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A former Department of Defense official said he left the Pentagon in protest over the United States’ inability to compete with China technologically.

Nicolas Chaillan, former chief software officer at the U.S. Air Force, told the Financial Times that China’s progress in artificial intelligence, cyber security and machine learning was much more advanced than that of the United States and that China’s eventual dominance on the world stage was inevitable.

“We have no competing fighting chance against China in 15 to 20 years,” Chaillan said. “Right now, it’s already a done deal; it is already over in my opinion.” (RELATED: Chinese Bot Network Used Social Media To Encourage Asian American Protests, Researchers Find)

Chaillan argued that the U.S. was not sufficiently investing in relevant technologies, spending money on expensive military hardware rather than software, adding that the U.S. was too concerned with ethical issues surrounding new technologies such as artificial intelligence. He also attributed the United States’ declining competitive edge to tech companies like Google’s unwillingness to work with the Department of Defense (DOD).

Chaillan said there was “good reason to be angry” and described U.S. cybersecurity systems and defenses as at a “kindergarten level.”

This photo taken on August 4, 2020 shows Prince, a member of the hacking group Red Hacker Alliance who refused to give his real name, using a website that monitors global cyberattacks on his computer at their office in Dongguan, China's southern Guangdong province. - From a small, dingy office tucked away in an industrial city in southern China, the Red Hacker Alliance -- one of China's most well-known patriotic "hacktivist" groups -- maintain battle in the country's nationalistic online war. (Photo by NICOLAS ASFOURI / AFP) / TO GO WITH China-hacking-security,FOCUS by Laurie Chen (Photo by NICOLAS ASFOURI/AFP via Getty Images)

This photo taken on August 4, 2020 shows Prince, a member of the hacking group Red Hacker Alliance who refused to give his real name, using a website that monitors global cyberattacks on his computer at their office in Dongguan, China’s southern Guangdong province. (Photo by NICOLAS ASFOURI/AFP via Getty Images)

Chaillan resigned from his post in late September, citing in a resignation letter posted to his LinkedIn the DOD’s unwillingness to invest in research and development of new technologies as well as the practice of placing officials with little to no technical knowledge in positions of leadership.

“We would not put a pilot in the cockpit without extensive flight training; why would we expect someone with no IT experience to be close to successful?” Chaillan wrote, arguing that the DOD was “setting up critical infrastructure up to fail.” (RELATED: China Denies Responsibility For Microsoft Hack, Accuses CIA Of Cyber Theft)

Those without technical training “do not know what to execute on or what to prioritize which leads to endless risk reduction efforts and diluted focus,” Chaillan continued.

The former software chief told the Financial Times he would testify before Congress on how to improve U.S. competitiveness and cyber defense related to China.

The Biden administration has pushed to modernize and enhance U.S. cyber capabilities, spearheading a public-private partnership with major technology companies designed to improve private-sector reporting of cyber attacks.

The United States Competition and Investment Act, a law passed in June, directs the National Science Foundation to establish a program to research and develop technologies related to artificial intelligence, including robotics and quantum computing, in a bid to compete with China.

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