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Artificial intelligence (AI) and machine learning will play a role in protecting the United States from malicious cyber actors.

NSA’s Jason Wang, technical director for the Computer and Analytic Sciences Research Group, forecasted a future in which AI will support the Intelligence Community’s (IC) efforts to secure and defend our Nation’s networks.

“I think the next frontier for us is probably in the cybersecurity space,” he said. “There’s a lot of opportunity … to bring machines to this very low latency, highly dynamic problem in ways that really are not human-time kinds of responses.”

Mr. Wang was responding to a question about cybersecurity and AI posed by former Director of National Intelligence James Clapper, one of several hundred audience members attending a virtual web briefing on July 12th that also featured AI experts from the Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) and National Geospatial Intelligence Agency (NGA).

“[Cybersecurity] is a space where we’ve gotten [AI] efforts underway that I think we’d love to mature along with our partners,” Mr. Wang said. 

Mr. Wang joined Neal Higgins, CIA’s associate deputy director for Digital Innovations, and Rachel Martin, NGA’s director of AI, Automation & Augmentation, for the final episode in a six-part special, “Artificial Intelligence in the New Age of National Security,” that brought leading experts from government, industry, academia, and finance and investment together to explore the ways AI can be integrated into national security.

“One of the things we should focus on … is how do we maximize our abilities as a U.S. IC against our adversaries?” Mr. Wang said. “Part of this is going to be … working [together] and being able to … partner with each other across the various authorities that we represent. One of the things I’d love to see is us come together as an IC on is how do we coordinate on talent development? How do we continue to pursue some of the best talent in artificial intelligence and machine learning so that we can build a little bit of that technical headroom internally within our agencies?”

“It is a very dynamic … global competition in this space,” he said, “but there are things that we can do to maintain our advantages.”

As an Agency within the Department of Defense (DoD), NSA routinely coordinates with members of the DoD’s Joint Artificial Intelligence Center, formed in 2018 to explore the use of AI in actual combat. 

Monday’s discussions also focused on the Agency’s efforts over the past 10 years to develop natural language processing, a branch of AI that allows computers to understand human language.

“At the NSA, with most of our industry and academic counterparts, our journey started in this area of natural language processing and computer vision — applying capabilities like machine transcription, machine translation … to our mission,” he said. “Part of the journey over this past decade has been maturing those foundational AI capabilities … to extend to some of our core missions.”

NSA’s cybersecurity triage mission is one of the focus areas that has been impacted by natural language processing, according to Mr. Wang.

“We’ve been able to extend research outcomes of AI into mission applications,” he said. “What that’s enabled us to do over this past decade is build this environment of culture and trust to where we can have an AI conversation with our analysts, our decision makers, and our policy leads in ways that are empirically driven, beyond theoretical.”

The National Security Agency does not endorse the content of external links to non-Federal agency websites in this article and the content of the external links is not subject to federal information quality, privacy, security, and related guidance.



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