Diane DiEuliis, National Defense University and planning committee member, kicked off the plenary session with a comment about the impact of emerging technologies. She noted that the metagenomic approaches that Ethan Jackson, Microsoft Healthcare, described (see Chapter 3) raise the question of what is done now for disease surveillance compared to the capabilities of the Premonition Project. She noted that public health infrastructure today is not based on metagenomic tools. However, she observed that even in the current COVID-19 outbreak, BGI Genomics used a metagenomics approach in Wuhan, China, and that other companies are working on similar efforts. She noted that it is important for the Intelligence Community (IC) to understand when those inflection points happen; that is, when does the fundamental infrastructure of public health surveillance change? And when it does change, how do we adapt, how do we make these systems secure, and what kind of cybersecurity and national security vulnerabilities exist?
Jackson noted that Microsoft intentionally considers use cases on the defense side, as well as scenarios where the systems must work in environments that are disconnected from infrastructure. DiEuliis noted that the Premonition Project’s work is important not only for
Department of Defense (DoD) or IC needs, but also for applications in the public arena, such as public health and agriculture. As an example, she noted how platforms such as Premonition could help revolutionize the work of the Smithsonian Institution to understand invasive species.
One participant asked about the use of data and how to identify anomalies of interest to the IC. DiEuliis noted that although vast amounts of data are being generated, what is extracted from that data depends on what questions are of interest. For example, she said, when we consider organism data for synthetic biology, there are fewer concerns about how open those data are compared to human genome data or health information. She stressed the importance of considering what kinds of data are of interest, how they are used, and what data must be protected instead of shared.
Mallory Stewart, a planning committee member, noted the many interesting topics discussed and suggested that the NCPC consider how to address the counterproliferation issues for each. Manferdelli noted that it can be difficult to identify the correct things to protect and noted a better strategy is to try to stay ahead of the curve. Stewart agreed that controlling the technologies is not necessarily possible, but that sorting out how to respond from a counterproliferation perspective will be key. She said that preventing something from being weaponized is a better approach than trying to restrict data or information.
Fingar returned to the question of partnerships. He noted that partnerships that include NCPC, the IC, and the U.S. government more broadly are possible. He observed that they are also essential and that there are numerous benefits to tapping expertise beyond what exists inside the IC. He continued, though, that a set of obstacles to these partnerships exist primarily on the IC side. Further clarity about the purpose of the partnership and the dialogue are important. He said that the partners must understand what the government is seeking and that there must be a continuous, two-way interaction. He explained that creating a productive collaboration requires finding a way to work on a shared concern on an ongoing basis as opposed to starting a collaboration when there is a new crisis to address.
Fingar also emphasized the importance of ensuring that there is domain expertise “in-house” on the government side and that government can understand the information it receives from partners. In addition, the NCPC can identify needs across the community and help make critical connections with relevant parts of the scientific establishment.
Fingar also noted that the science and engineering community can support the NCPC’s mission in two broad way. One, he said, is to provide help in monitoring technologies (e.g., to identify shipment of fissile material) and engineering developments that might make it possible for an adversary to work outside the bounds of existing control and reporting regimes. Another, he said, is to assist with threat analysis and to help determine which of the emerging technologies or production arrangements or training programs warrant closer attention. He noted that addressing the tensions between security and functionality, security and commercial operations, security and privacy, and so on will be an ongoing challenge. He noted the challenge of managing a rapidly changing world in which the changes are not limited to technology; companies are multinational, Americans hold stock in multinational companies, and so on.
John urged that the notion of counterproliferation be broadened to look beyond nuclear, biological, and chemical weapons. She noted that bioengineered materials, for instance, are relevant to national security. Adversaries may use such materials to develop capabilities for which there is no countermeasure. She stated that it is not clear where responsibility for monitoring these sorts of advances resides. MacDougall noted that the IC has recognized the challenge of multinational companies for several decades. One specific issue, he said, is that the manufacturing sector and industry are much more agile than the government and that government acquisition approaches make it very difficult for the government to stay at the cutting edge of fast-moving industries.
Stewart emphasized that boundaries and definitions sometimes restrict the ability of governmental organizations to operate where they need to. She said that the NCPC has a weapons of mass destruction (WMD) focus and yet many of the technologies discussed at this workshop do not strictly fall within their purview. She argued that the concepts of nonproliferation and counterproliferation need to evolve to address challenges stemming from space science, cyber weapons, nanotechnology, additive manufacturing, and other technologies discussed throughout the day. DiEuliis noted that even with advanced technologies, developing and producing products that have significant market reach will likely involve the use of items or infrastructure that can be tracked. She noted that synthetic biology that uses yeast and viruses requires fermentation tanks and sugar, and that sugar is a regulated commodity. John agreed, noting that new technologies and platforms will require seeing new kinds of signatures of activity. The massive amounts of data, she said, make pulling signatures out of noise even more challenging.
This page intentionally left blank.