Senators left a classified briefing on artificial intelligence Tuesday with a deeper understanding of how AI is already being used to bolster U.S. national security and the looming threat China poses as it deploys its own AI capabilities.
“I think, from a military perspective, it’s very existential because China’s playing for keeps,” Sen. Eric Schmitt, R-Mo., told Fox News Digital after the closed-door session. “On the commercial side, there’s a lot of innovation that’s happening. So, it’s moving quickly, but I think the best we can do right now is get a firm understanding.”
Tuesday afternoon’s briefing was the first-ever classified meeting with senators and key Pentagon officials about AI. Discussion included how the U.S. is using AI to maintain its national security edge and how adversaries like China are using this emerging tool.
Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer, D-N.Y., told reporters what he learned was “eye-opening.” It comes after he told senators in a letter over the weekend that Congress is moving full steam ahead on his AI regulatory framework, which Schumer said Tuesday could take months to develop.
“Our timetable in terms of producing legislation is not years and not days and weeks, but months,” he said. “We can’t rush too fast … but we can’t go so slowly that either other governments that are authoritarian or bad actors who are private sector actors get ahead of us.”
Sen. Joni Ernst, R-Iowa, said she left the briefing feeling confident about the country’s position but warned the U.S. cannot lift its foot off the gas pedal in developing AI capabilities.
Senate Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Chair Gary Peters, D-Mich., did not go into detail about the briefing but said there was “constant action” in Congress on the AI front.
“It was very informative. I learned a lot, and surely it’s informing some of the discussions that we’re having right now,” Peters said of the private session.
Young is a member of a four-person bipartisan Senate working group on AI convened by Schumer. The group was responsible for convening a series of learning sessions, including Tuesday’s briefing, so colleagues could become more informed on AI as Congress works to get ahead of its lightening-fast advancements.
His fellow Republican in the group, Sen. Mike Rounds, R-S.D., told Fox News Digital 59 senators attended the session Tuesday and said it “woke them up” to America’s AI-based defensive capabilities. But he did not leave the meeting with any new concerns about U.S. competitiveness.
Sen. Tim Kaine, D-Va., listens during a Senate Health, Education, Labor, and Pensions Committee hearing on Capitol Hill Jan. 11, 2022, in Washington, D.C. (Greg Nash-Pool/Getty Images)