Barrasso: With Growth of AI and Other Critical Technologies, Labs Must Take China Threat Seriously

September 7, 2023

Click here to watch ranking member Barrasso’s remarks.


WASHINGTON, D.C. — Today, U.S. Senator John Barrasso (R-WY), ranking member of the Senate Committee on Energy and Natural Resources (ENR), delivered the following remarks at a full committee hearing to discuss recent advances in artificial intelligence and the Department of Energy’s role in ensuring U.S. competitiveness and security in emerging technologies.


The hearing featured testimony from the Honorable David M. Turk, Deputy Secretary at the U.S. Department of Energy; Dr. Rick L. Stevens, Associate Laboratory Director for Computing, Environment and Life Sciences (CELS) at the Argonne National Laboratory; Ms. Anna B. Puglisi, Senior Fellow, Center for Security and Emerging Technology (CSET) at Georgetown University; and Mr. Andrew Wheeler, Fellow & Vice President of Hewlett Packard Labs and HPC & AI Advanced.


For more information on witness testimony click here.


Senator Barrasso’s remarks: 


“Thanks so much, Mr. Chairman and I appreciate your opening remarks because artificial intelligence is rapidly transforming the world.


“It is already impacting our daily lives.


“Artificial intelligence plays an important role in the energy sector.


“In mining, AI can reduce equipment downtime.


“Advanced algorithms help miners locate mineral-rich deposits for more efficient exploration.


“Real-time analytics strengthen worker safety programs by predicting potential hazards.


“Artificial intelligence helps pinpoint oil and gas reservoirs.


“Predictive models harness data to streamline operations and reduce costs.


“AI-enhanced sensors also reinforce pipeline safety and efficiency.


“So, artificial intelligence has great promise to expand our economy and to strengthen our national security.


“It also raises, Mr. Chairman as you point out, some well-documented concerns.


“A recent study by the University of East Anglia highlighted a significant and systemic left-wing bias in the ChatGPT platform.


“In the United States, it revealed a clear bias in favor of the Democrats.


“The same program favored the Labour Party in the United Kingdom, and the Workers’ Party in Brazil.


“We can’t let political bias infiltrate development of AI.


“This is particularly true when taxpayer dollars are helping fund the technology’s development.


“Innovation in emerging technologies, like artificial intelligence, can be a source of great strength.


“It can be a key advantage in our geopolitical competition, as you point out Mr. Chairman, with China and with Russia.


“It can also create a national security risk if the technologies are not properly protected.


“The Department of Energy has an important role in artificial intelligence research.


“The Department maintains the world’s most advanced computing systems.


“Its 17 national labs have significant experience developing our nation’s most sensitive technologies.


“For this reason, the People’s Republic of China is watching nearly every move that is made at our national labs.


“A recent report revealed that since 1987, the Chinese Communist Party has targeted over 160 Chinese researchers working at our premier nuclear weapons lab.


“Upon returning to China, these researchers helped to advance key military technologies using knowledge financed by American taxpayers.


“In July of this year, senior FBI officials warned that China is targeting U.S. businesses, universities, and government research facilities.


“China is trying to get their hands on cutting-edge American research and technology.


“As of 2021, over 4,000 non-U.S. resident Chinese nationals still work at our national labs.


“Many of these foreign nationals strive to further scientific innovation and do want to collaborate in good faith.


“But they find themselves beholden to an authoritarian regime and the Chinese Communist Party is relentless.


“Some of these Chinese nationals will see no choice but to support the Chinese communists

through theft of research and technology.


“Their families back in China may suffer harsh consequences, if they do not comply with the government’s demands.


“China’s sustained interest in our intellectual property is a stark reminder of the intense global competition surrounding artificial intelligence.


“This competition may drive advancements in the field.


“But we can’t overlook the threat to our economic and national security posed by the Chinese government.


“The Department of Energy and our national labs must take the China threat more seriously.


“We can’t let our technology fall into the hands of those in Beijing.


“I look forward to hearing from our witnesses today on what additional steps research agencies, and the laboratories and universities they fund, must take to prevent this theft of American technology.


“Mr. Chairman, thank you for calling this important hearing.”