February 3, 2023

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Eric Schmidt to Helm National Artificial Intelligence/Emerging Technologies Project

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Former Google [GOOGL] CEO and billionaire Eric Schmidt said on Oct. 5 that he is launching the Special Competitive Studies Project (SCSP), a national initiative to recommend ways to strengthen U.S. capabilities in artificial intelligence (AI) and other emerging technologies.

The bipartisan board of directors is to include Robert Work, former deputy secretary of defense during the Obama administration and co-chair of the National Security Commission on Artificial Intelligence (NSCAI); Nadia Schadlow, principal author of the 2017 National Security Strategy and a former deputy national security adviser for strategy in the Trump administration; Michèle Flournoy, former undersecretary of defense for policy in the Obama administration; and Mac Thornberry, a former chairman and ranking member of the House Armed Services Committee who served as a Republican representative from Texas.

NSCAI’s final report, released in March, detailed steps required to ensure the U.S. is “AI-ready” by 2025,  to include a call for doubling AI research and development funding annually to reach $32 billion per year by fiscal year 2026 and recommending several steps to drive technology adoption efforts (Defense Daily, March 1). Schmidt co-chaired NSCAI with Work.

Ylli Bajraktari, who served as the executive director of NSCAI, is to be the CEO of SCSP. Bajraktari also served as chief of staff for former national security adviser and now retired Army Lt. Gen. H.R. McMaster during the Trump administration, as an assistant to Work when he was deputy defense secretary, as special assistant to former Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Army Gen. Martin Dempsey, and as a country director for Afghanistan after  joining DoD in 2010.

SCSP said that it derives from NSCAI and the Rockefeller Special Studies Project (SSP), launched in 1956 by Nelson Rockefeller and led by Henry Kissinger. That earlier project aimed to chart a bipartisan way forward on national security and other challenges.

“We are at a similar historical moment today,” Kissinger said in an Oct. 5 statement by SCSP. “We need deep analysis and urgent action or our destiny will be shaped for us.”

SCSP said it is funded solely by Schmidt and his wife, Wendy, and is to have an office in Crystal City in Arlington, Va.

“Similar to the Rockefeller Special Studies Project, SCSP will publish policy memos that aim to make recommendations to maintain our global competitiveness on AI and other emerging technologies and the impact it will have on our society, economy and national security,” SCSP said in an email response to questions.

Schmidt said in the Oct. 5 SCSP statement that support from the federal government launched his career.

“My graduate work in computer science in the 1970s and ’80s was funded in part by the National Science Foundation and the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency,” he said. “Five years ago, I was fortunate to be able to start giving back when then‐Secretary of Defense Ash Carter asked me to serve on the Department of Defense’s Defense Innovation Board, and then three years ago, Congress asked me to chair the National Security Commission on Artificial Intelligence. Both of these roles convinced me that the U.S. needs to think, organize and compete in significantly new ways. No serious nation can ignore the impacts of emerging technologies on all aspects of our national life.”

Eric Schmidt to Helm National Artificial Intelligence/Emerging Technologies Project

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