Increase US Competitiveness with China Through AI and Spectrum, Experts Urge

‘If the U.S. doesn’t lead, China will.’

Increase US Competitiveness with China Through AI and Spectrum, Experts Urge
Screenshot of Representative Mike Gallagher, R-Wisconsin.

WASHINGTON, July 20, 2023 – Maintaining U.S. competitiveness with China requires leveraging artificial intelligence for supply chain monitoring and allocating mid-band spectrum for commercial use, said experts Thursday.

It is critical that the United States reduces its dependency on China in key areas including microelectronics, electric vehicles, solar panels, pharmaceutical ingredients, rare earth minerals processing, and more, said Rep. Mike Gallagher, R-Wisconsin, at a Punchbowl News event. He added that it is essential that American companies and governments are aware of their own supply chain risks and vulnerable areas.

Artificial intelligence can be deployed to understand vulnerabilities in the supply chain, said Carrie Wibben, president of government solutions at supply chain management software company Exiger.

American adversaries have been using AI for a long time to understand where to penetrate American supply chain ecosystem to obtain a strategic advantage over the country, said Wibben. She reported that the Department of Defense is moving quickly to increase visibility in its supply chain and implement new technology.

AI and supply chains are the two fronts the U.S. competes in to maintain global dominance, said Wibben. She encouraged the coordination of the two to develop a strategy to keep U.S. global competitiveness and increase national security.

A major concern in Congress is the nation’s reliance on China for its supply chain, added Rep. Raja Krishnamoorthi, D-Illinois. He said that the best solution is diversifying in the private sector, meaning that companies have redundant suppliers.

In many cases, this can be done without government intervention but where the private sector doesn’t have the knowledge base to replicate these systems, it is essential that the government step in and provide incentives, Krishnamoorthi said. Congress has passed several laws, including the Inflation Reduction Act and the CHIPS and Science Act that invest billions of dollars into American-made clean energy and semiconductors.

Krishnamoorthi said that the White House is doing what it can to prevent aggression from the Peoples Republic of China materializing into conflict.

Need more spectrum

Allocating more licensed spectrum for commercial use to support 5G is essential to maintaining US competitiveness with China, said panelists at a separate American Enterprise Institute event Thursday.

Next generation wireless mobile network, 5G, enables higher speeds with low latency and more reliability. For a democratic state, 5G will enable more expression, innovation, human freedom, and opportunities to solve world challenges of health and climate, said Clete Johnson, senior fellow at the Center for Strategic and International Studies. For an authoritarian state, the same technology will enable policing of citizens, social control, and an overarching understanding of what people are doing, said Johnson.

If the U.S. is behind China in allocating the spectrum that 5G rides on, then China will dominate cyber and information operations, including force projections and more capable weaponry, warned Johnson. “If we don’t lead, China will.”

“Commercial strength is national security,” said Johnson, referring to the need to allocate spectrum for commercial use.

China recognizes the value of 5G and how this kind of foundation will enable industrial and commercial activity, said Peter Rysavy, president of wireless consultancy Rysavy Research. The country has allocated three times as much spectrum in the mid-band areas for commercial use than the U.S. has, he said.

No amount of spectrum efficiency and sharing mechanisms will replace having more spectrum available, added Paroma Sanyal, principal at economic consultancy Brattle Group. The U.S. government needs to get more spectrum into the pipeline, she said.

A former administrator of the National Telecommunications and Information Administration said on a panel last week that national security depends on commercial access to spectrum. “If you take economic security out of the national security equation, you damage national security and vice versa,” John Kneuer said.

Kneuer suggested that allowing the commercial sector access to more spectrum is beneficial to this goal as it spurs innovation that is a byproduct of increased economic activity that can then spill back into the federal agencies for new capabilities they would not have had otherwise.

The Federal Communications Commission is evaluating how artificial intelligence can be used in dynamic spectrum sharing to optimize traffic and prevent harmful interference. AI can be used to make congestion control decisions and sense when federal agencies are using the bands to allow commercial use on federally owned spectrum without disrupting high-priority use.

This comes as the FCC is facing spectrum availability concerns. In its June open meeting, the FCC issued proposed rulemaking that explores how the 42 –42.5 GHz spectrum band might be made available on a shared basis. The agency’s spectrum auction authority, however, expired earlier this year.

The head of the NTIA announced this week that the national spectrum strategy is set to be complete by the end of the year. It will represent a government-wide approach to maximizing the potential of the nation’s spectrum resources and takes into account input from government agencies and the private sector.

Rep. Doris Matsui, D-Calif., is heading two bills, the Spectrum Relocation Enhancement Act and the Spectrum Coexistence Act, that would make updates to the spectrum relocation fund that compensates federal agencies to clear spectrum for commercial use and would require the NTIA to conduct a review of federal receiver technology to support more intensive use of limited spectrum.

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