GAO Report on Emerging Threats Highlighted by Dual-Use Technologies

GAO government accountability office

Federal agencies identified 26 long-range emerging threats to U.S. national security, including emerging technologies and foreign cybersecurity threats, a new report by the Government Accountability Office (GAO) found.

To identify the threats, the GAO administered 45 questionnaires across the Department of Defense (DoD), Department of State (State), Department of Homeland Security (DHS) and the Office of the Director of National Intelligence (ODNI). The threats identified were those that might occur in approximately five or more years, or during an unknown timeframe. The analysis from the departments broke down the long-term threats into four categories which were: Adversaries’ Political and Military Advancements, Dual-Use Technologies, Weapons, and Events and Demographic Changes.

Dual-Use Technologies refers to tech that may be developed by governments or the private sector for innocuous reasons, but in adversarial hands, can pose a risk to national security. The threats identified by the report are artificial intelligence (AI), quantum information science, the Internet of Things (IoT), autonomous and unmanned systems, and biotechnology, and other emerging technologies, such as 3D printing.

Agency officials identified that adversaries may gain increased access to AI, which could then be applied to weapons, as well as quantum communications, which would allow adversaries to develop secure communications that the U.S. could not intercept or decrypt. Quantum computing could also allow adversaries to decrypt information that would allow them to target U.S. personnel and military operations.

The study refers to difficulties that the U.S. could encounter when it comes to cybersecurity as IoT grows, including allowing adversaries to attack commercial and military tech devices. A growing threat of technological advancements in adversarial hands also includes “developing autonomous capabilities that could recognize faces, understand gestures and match voices of U.S. personnel,” which could have a negative effect on military operations. Per the report, China, Russia and North Korea are developing Intelligence, Surveillance, Reconnaissance Platforms (ISR) which could allow people or equipment to be tracked globally in near-real time.

The report also identified 3D printing and sophisticated encryption technologies that would allow adversaries to manufacture weapons and impede U.S. efforts to monitor terrorist and criminal activities. The DoD concurred with the findings, while the DHS and ODNI provided additional comments.

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