Top tech execs named to new National Security Commission on Artificial Intelligence

By Justin Doubleday / January 10, 2019 at 12:44 PM

(This story has been updated after Sen. Mark Warner (D-VA) withdrew his nomination of Sen. Martin Heinrich (D-NM) and instead appointed Chris Darby to the commission)

Executives from major technology firms Google, Microsoft, Amazon and Oracle will serve on the new National Security Commission on Artificial Intelligence, along with former national security officials and leading academics.

The commission was created by the Fiscal Year 2019 National Defense Authorization Act to review how advances in AI, machine learning and related technologies could affect U.S. national security. The commission will consider issues such as international developments and trends, how the United States can remain competitive in the AI field, and the risks associated with using such technologies in battle.

The panel is being established as U.S. officials increasingly worry about competitor nations like China surpassing the United States in AI. The Defense Department has established a Joint Artificial Intelligence Center (JAIC) to coordinate development across the services and accelerate the fielding of AI capabilities.

"Going forward, JAIC will benefit from and help bring into reality recommendations of the National Security Commission on AI," DOD Chief Information Officer Dana Deasy said during a Dec. 11 House Armed Services emerging threats and capabilities subcommittee hearing.

The commission has a mandate to deliver a "comprehensive report" to the White House in August.

The Pentagon declined to comment on the commission's membership and plans, but congressional records show who was appointed to the panel by the NDAA's Nov. 13 deadline.

The law authorized the Pentagon to select two people to serve on the commission, the Commerce Department to appoint one commissioner and various congressional leaders to fill out the remainder of the 15-member group. The appointments were made in the previous congressional session, when Republicans still controlled the House and some leadership positions were held by different lawmakers.

DOD appointed William Mark and Andrew Moore to the AI commission, while the Commerce Department selected Gilman Louie, according to notifications delivered to the Senate Armed Services Committee in November.

Mark leads SRI International's Information and Computer Sciences Division. Moore just took over as the head of Google Cloud Artificial Intelligence this month. He stepped down as dean of Carnegie Mellon University's School of Computer Science in December.

Louie is the founder and former chief executive of the CIA-backed venture fund In-Q-Tel. He now works as a partner of venture capital firm Alsop Louie Partners. He also serves on various boards, including as chair of the Federation of American Scientists and as a member of both Google's and Lockheed Martin's respective Technical Advisory Boards.

In Congress, the previous chairman of the House Energy and Commerce Committee, Greg Walden (R-OR), tapped Amazon's Andy Jassy to serve on the commission. Jassy is chief executive of Amazon Web Services, the web giant's cloud services unit.

Jassy has been chosen to serve on the commission alongside Oracle chief executive Safra Catz, who was appointed by Rep. Devin Nunes (R-CA) when he was chairman of the House Permanent Select Committee on Intelligence.

Catz and Jassy's appointments come as their companies openly feud in court over the direction of a massive Pentagon cloud program. 

The former ranking member and now chairman of the House Energy and Commerce Committee, Rep. Frank Pallone, Jr. (D-NJ), appointed former FCC Commissioner Mignon Clyburn. The former ranking member and current chairman of the House Permanent Select Committee on Intelligence, Rep. Adam Schiff (D-CA), appointed Steve Chien to the commission. Chien is technical group supervisor of the artificial intelligence group at NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory.

When he still held the gavel of the Senate's commerce panel, Sen. John Thune (R-SD) appointed Dakota State University president Jose-Marié Griffiths to the commission. Meanwhile, former Sen. Bill Nelson (D-FL), who was ranking member of the commerce committee before losing his seat in the November election, appointed Ken Ford, the founder and chief executive of the Florida Institute for Human & Machine Cognition.

Senate Armed Services Committee Chairman Jim Inhofe (R-OK) appointed former Assistant Secretary of Defense for Acquisition Katharina McFarland, while Ranking Member Jack Reed (D-RI) selected former Deputy Defense Secretary Bob Work.

In November, then-House Armed Services Committee Chairman Mac Thornberry (R-TX) announced he had appointed Eric Schmidt to the commission, while then-Ranking Member Adam Smith (D-WA) said he had chosen Eric Horvitz.

Schmidt, the former chief executive of Google, is already heavily involved in advising DOD on artificial intelligence matters as chairman of the Defense Innovation Board. Horvitz is director of Microsoft Research Labs and previously served as president of the Association for the Advancement of AI.

Senate Select Committee on Intelligence Chairman Richard Burr (R-NC) selected Jason Matheny, former director of the Intelligence Advanced Research Projects Activity.

Sen. Mark Warner (D-VA), the vice chairman of the intelligence committee, had originally appointed Sen. Martin Heinrich (D-NM) to the commission, but the Senate Ethics Committee advised that Heinrich could not serve on the panel, a spokeswoman for Warner confirmed. 

Instead, Warner appointed Chris Darby, the head of In-Q-Tel.