Department of Homeland Security (DHS) Secretary Alejandro Mayorkas announced late last week the formation of a task force that will examine negative repercussions of the widespread adoption of artificial intelligence (AI) technologies.

The AI Task Force will analyze adverse impacts surrounding generative AI systems and potential uses for the emerging technology. Some areas of study will include how to: better detect illegal fentanyl shipments; apply AI to digital forensic tools to help authorities with child sexual exploitation and abuse; integrate AI to enhance the integrity of the supply chain and the broader trade environment; and assess the impact of AI on critical infrastructure.

“The profound evolution in the homeland security threat environment, changing at a pace faster than ever before, has required [DHS] to evolve along with it,” Mayorkas said during remarks at a Council on Foreign Relations event on April 21.

This is the first time the department has announced a task force dedicated to AI. Within 60 days of its establishment, the task force will submit a roadmap of milestones it wants to achieve.

“We must … look to the future and imagine the otherwise unimaginable, to ensure that whatever threats we face, our department – our country – will be positioned to meet the moment,” Mayorkas said.

Mayorkas also highlighted mission areas detailed in the Quadrennial Homeland Security Review delivered to Congress last week, which include combatting a range of evolving threats like cybersecurity, targeted violence, and crimes of exploitation.

“The QHSR helps Congress and the American public understand the evolving threats we face and our approach to addressing them. That approach includes leveraging emerging technologies, such as artificial intelligence, and modernizing the department to ensure our personnel has the tools they need to deliver on our vital mission,” Mayorkas said in a previous statement announcing the review.

In addition, Mayorkas announced that the department will carry out a 90-day sprint to study and counter threats from China, and will examine how to defend U.S. critical infrastructure against Chinese cyberattacks.

The 90-day examination will focus on six areas:

  • Defending against attacks on critical infrastructure;
  • Disrupting the fentanyl supply chain;
  • Screening travelers who are exploiting the immigration system to collect intelligence, steal intellectual property, or harass dissidents;
  • Mitigating China’s influence on the supply chain, including the safe navigation and resource development in the Arctic and Indo-Pacific; and
  • International information sharing on the counterintelligence threats posed by China.

“As threats of the past have changed in form complexity and magnitude, so have new threats emerged. This is perhaps nowhere more acute than in cyberspace,” said Mayorkas.

The final report will identify opportunities for enduring enhancements to DHS’ posture to counter these threats. This may include further opportunities for public-private partnership, best practices that can be applied department-wide, and opportunities for further enhancements to ensure DHS has the tools and capabilities to counter threats from China.

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Lisbeth Perez
Lisbeth Perez
Lisbeth Perez is a MeriTalk Senior Technology Reporter covering the intersection of government and technology.