Defense official said he was fired because US cybersecurity cannot cope with China

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  • Nicolas Chaillan was the US Air Force’s software chief and worked on security at the Pentagon.
  • He quit in September and told the FT last week that the US is lagging far behind China on AI.
  • “We have no competitive chance against China in fifteen to twenty years,” he said.

A senior cybersecurity officer at the Pentagon said he resigned because he believed it was impossible for the US to compete with China on AI.

Nicolas Chaillan joined the U.S. Air Force as the first Chief Software Officer in August 2018, working to provide it and the Pentagon with the most secure, advanced software available.

However, Chaillan quit on Sept. 2, citing the Pentagon’s reluctance to make cybersecurity and AI a priority in its outgoing LinkedIn post.

In his first interview since leaving, Chaillan told the Financial Times that China was way ahead of the US.

“We have no competitive chance against China in fifteen to twenty years. At the moment it is already a done deal, in my opinion it is already over,” he said.

Chaillan went on to say that some government departments’ AI capabilities and cyber defenses are “kindergarten-level,” the FT said.

A number of US departments have been hacked and

Ransomware
Attacks in recent years.

In April 2020, the US Treasury Department, Department of Homeland Security, State Department, and Department of Defense were compromised by the SolarWinds hack. Hackers were able to spy on employees’ digital activities and access some of their emails.

Chaillan also told the FT that U.S. national security was threatened by Google’s refusal to collaborate with the Pentagon on AI.

Google stopped working with the Pentagon in 2018 after 12 employees quit a project where Googled was helping the Pentagon develop software that could improve the accuracy of drone attacks.

In China, Chaillan said, private cyber and AI companies are on call from Beijing.

China aims to become the leading AI superpower by 2030, and a March report by the National Artificial Intelligence Security Commission warned that the US “is not ready to join the United States in the coming artificial intelligence (AI) era defend”.

Chaillan said it doesn’t matter if the US spends three times as much as China on defense because it’s allocated to the wrong areas, the FT said.

In the LinkedIn post announcing his departure, Chaillan said he was frustrated with the Pentagon’s reluctance to commit to cybersecurity.

“I’m just fed up with hunted down for support and money to do my job. My office still has no quarters [physical location] and no funding this year and next, “he wrote.

Chaillan told the FT he plans to testify before Congress about the threat posed by China.

Insider contacted the Pentagon for comment.


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