Google's Work with China Eroding US Military Advantage, Dunford Says

U.S. Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Gen. Joseph Dunford, left, speaks with Chinese military officials before boarding his plane at Beijing Capital International Airport in Beijing, Thursday, Aug. 17, 2017. (AP Photo/Andrew Harnik)
U.S. Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Gen. Joseph Dunford, left, speaks with Chinese military officials before boarding his plane at Beijing Capital International Airport in Beijing, Thursday, Aug. 17, 2017. (AP Photo/Andrew Harnik)

Joint Chiefs Chairman Gen. Joseph Dunford said Thursday that he would likely be meeting next week with Google executives on his concerns that the work Google was doing with China on artificial intelligence and other technologies was undermining the U.S military.

"This is not about me and Google, this about us looking at the second and third order effects of our business ventures in China [and] the impact it's going to have on U.S. ability to maintain a competitive military advantage and all that goes with it," Dunford said.

Dunford said he had general concerns about other U.S. business ventures in China, but "In the case of Google, they were highlighted because they have an artificial intelligence venture in China."

U.S. companies must realize that in doing business with China, "they are automatically required to have a cell of the Chinese Communist Party (CCP) in that company and that it's going to lead to that intellectual property from that company finding its way to the Chinese military," Dunford said. "There's a distinction without a difference between the CCP and the government and the Chinese military."

Historically, one of the reasons for the U.S. maintaining a military advantage over other nations has been enduring partnerships between the Pentagon and industry, and Chinese President Xi Jinping has taken a similar path in China's effort to erase the U.S. advantage, Dunford said.

Unless precautions are taken, U.S. business ventures in China could "enable the Chinese military to take advantage of the technology developed in the United States," Dunford said.

The remarks at the Atlantic Council event echoed those expressed by Dunford and Acting Defense Secretary Patrick Shanahan at a Senate Armed Services Committee hearing last week on Google and other firms doing business in China while showing reluctance to work with the U.S. military.

Last year, Google announced that it would not renew a contract with the Pentagon for artificial intelligence work, following protests from employees who charged that the technology could be used for lethal purposes.

At the Senate hearing, Shanahan said that Google has shown "a lack of willingness to support DoD programs."

He added that China often uses technology developed in the private sector for military purposes.

"The technology that is developed in the civil world transfers to the military world; it's a direct pipeline," Shanahan said.

-- Richard Sisk can be reached at richard.sisk@military.com.

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