First Pentagon cyber czar quits, says DoD, Congress have already lost to China as some government agencies have “kindergarten” level of understanding about AI
10/15/2021 // JD Heyes // Views

The Defense Department's first software chief has resigned in protest after declaring that the United States Congress and the Pentagon have ignored cybersecurity for so long that China has now leaped ahead in the realm and taken a permanent lead.

Nicolas Chaillan told a news outlet this week he thinks the U.S. will have “no competing chance against China” within 20 years because the U.S. government has not gotten serious about putting resources into developing defensive cyber capabilities, unlike Beijing.

“We have no competing fighting chance against China in 15 to 20 years. Right now, it’s already a done deal; it is already over in my opinion,” he told the Financial Times in his first interview with a media outlet since he resigned. He also said there is “good reason to be angry” about what has happened or, to be more accurate, what hasn't happened.

The American Wire provided more details:

In addition to a lack of effort and investment by the Pentagon, Chaillan also blamed federal overregulation and the refusal of top U.S. tech companies to assist the federal government in technology research and development in the cyber sector, leaving America lagging behind Chinese advances.

“Whether it takes a war or not is kind of anecdotal,” he told the Financial Times, adding that he sees China positioning itself for global domination so it can control all geopolitical events as well as the media narratives. He also noted that U.S. cyber-defenses for several government agencies were at “kindergarten level.”


The former cyber chief also cited Google for being too reluctant to work with the Defense Department on artificial intelligence, as well as “extensive debates over AI ethics for slowing the U.S. down,” the outlet noted.

Meanwhile, Chinese tech firms are required to cooperate with the government and in fact, do so eagerly. As such, they have been making a “massive investment” into AI without any regard to ethical concerns.

The former Pentagon software czar laid out his concerns along with his reasons for turning in his resignation in a letter posted to LinkedIn on Sept. 2.

“I realize more clearly than ever before that, in 20 years from now, our children, both in the United States and our Allies’, will have no chance competing in a world where China has the drastic advantage of population over the US,” Chaillan wrote.

“If the US can’t match the booming, hardworking population in China, then we have to win by being smarter, more efficient, and forward-leaning through agility, rapid prototyping and innovation. We have to be ahead and lead. We can’t afford to be behind,” he noted further.

“I told my leadership that I could have fixed Enterprise IT in 6 months if empowered. Yet with my 22 years of expertise running IT innovation, I was underutilized and poorly leveraged by the DOD, as most of my time was wasted trying to convince folks to engage with me and consider more relevant and efficient solutions, while I watched as they continued to deliver capabilities that do not meet the basic needs of our warfighters,” Chaillan said.

“The DoD should stop pretending they want industry folks to come and help if they are not going to let them do the work. While we wasted time in bureaucracy, our adversaries moved further ahead,” he wrote.

“I, as have many of us, have been trying for 3 years now to convince various teams to partner and merge work across the Department,” Chaillan continued. “We don’t need different stacks just for the sake of egos.

“There are 100,000 software developers in the DoD. We are the largest software organization on the planet, and we have almost no shared repositories and little to no collaboration across DoD Services,” he noted. “We need diversity of options if there are tangible benefits to duplicating work. Not because of silos created purposefully to allow senior officials to satisfy their thirst for power.”

This is not a new development. In 2010, cybersecurity expert czar Richard Clarke warned in a book, "Cyber War," that the U.S. was already lagging behind in the realm and would be overtaken and defeated if more resources were not dedicated to defense.

"We, as a country, have put all of our eggs in one basket. The reason that we're successfully dominating the world economically and militarily is because of systems that we have designed, and rely upon, which are cyber-based. It's our Achilles heel. It's an overused phrase, but it's absolutely true," Clarke said in a PBS Frontline interview.

That was in 2003.

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