Former Google CEO selected to lead National Security Commission on AI

By Justin Doubleday / January 18, 2019 at 3:21 PM

Former Google chief executive and current chairman of the Defense Innovation Board Eric Schmidt has been selected to chair a new commission studying how artificial intelligence will affect national security, with former Deputy Defense Secretary Bob Work tapped to serve as the vice chair.

The pair will lead the National Security Commission on Artificial Intelligence, which was created by the Fiscal Year 2019 National Defense Authorization Act. The Pentagon, the Commerce Department and lawmakers appointed a range of tech executives, former government officials and academics to the panel, Inside Defense first reported.

"It is a privilege to serve on this commission and contribute to its important mission," Schmidt said in a statement released by the panel via a Pentagon spokeswoman. "We can examine a wide range of topics relevant to national security, and I look forward to working with the other commissioners on this critical set of issues."

Schmidt already has helped advise the Pentagon on artificial intelligence matters through his chairmanship of the DIB. Though he is no longer an executive at Google, Schmidt is still a technical advisor to the company's parent corporation, Alphabet.

Meanwhile, Work directed the Pentagon's first high-profile artificial intelligence program, Project Maven. The effort has led to the establishment of a Joint Artificial Intelligence Center to coordinate AI developments and accelerate fielding across the military services and defense agencies.

Work is now a senior fellow at the Center for a New American Security.

"Artificial intelligence will have an enormous impact on our future economic and military competitiveness," Work said as part of the commission's statement. "I look forward to working with Eric Schmidt and the other distinguished commissioners on how best to exploit this rapidly improving technology for the betterment of our citizens, economy, and security."

The commission was tasked by the NDAA to "consider the methods and means necessary to advance the development of artificial intelligence, machine learning, and associated technologies by the U.S. to comprehensively address the national security and defense needs of the U.S."

In the statement, Schmidt and Work noted the commission will work on "multiple reports" and pledged to release them publicly during its two-year mandate.

"These reports will illuminate the research areas on which the commissioners are focusing their efforts and include recommendations to address the challenges they identify," they said.