A former top information technology official at the Department of Defense says he quit because the U.S. has all but lost the upcoming cyberwar with China.
“We have no competing fighting chance against China in 15 to 20 years. Right now, it’s already a done deal; it is already over in my opinion,” Nicolas Chaillan told the Financial Times in an interview published Sunday.
Chaillan resigned last month, saying the Pentagon put “laggards” in charge of cyberprojects for which they had no expertise.
“[W]e are setting up critical infrastructure to fail,” he said in his letter of resignation.
“We would not put a pilot in the cockpit without extensive flight training; why would we expect someone with no IT experience to be close to successful? … While we wasted time in bureaucracy, our adversaries moved further ahead,” Chaillan wrote.
Most of his time, he said, was spent “fixing basic cloud things and laptops” instead of helping America keep pace with its cyberrivals.
In a subsequent LinkedIn post on Sunday, Chaillan said his words were intended as a warning.
“For those who saw this article, I want to clarify one thing. I never said we lost. I said as it stands and if we don’t wake up NOW we have no fighting chance to win against China in 15 years,” he wrote.
Should the U.S. commit more resources to cyberwarfare?
“I also said that they’re leading in AI and Cyber NOW. Not in 10 years as some BS reports mention. Of course government funded reports always tell us we have more time than we have so no one is held accountable for missing the already past due target. Those are just common sense fact,” Chaillan said.
“We are competing against 1.5B folks here. Either we are smarter and more agile or we lose. Period,” he wrote.
For those who saw this article, 8 want to clarify one thing. I never said we lost. I said as it stands and if we don’t wake up NOW we have no fighting chance to win against China in 15 years. I also said that they’re lea…https://t.co/pelTLC0Z1M https://t.co/q8vxSkZ70M
— Nicolas Chaillan (@NicolasChaillan) October 10, 2021
Chaillan, 37, who came to the Pentagon in 2018 as the first chief software officer for the U.S. Air Force, indicted cyber protections in some federal departments as at “kindergarten level.”
America spends big in the wrong places, he said, investing billions in projects such as the F-35 fighter instead of cybersecurity.
He also noted that China harnesses all of the power of its resources, while in the U.S., Big Tech companies such as Google keep their distance from the federal government.
Robert Spalding, a retired Air Force general, said Chaillan “rightfully” complained and that he had moved to the private sector after dealing with “archaic” systems.
A March report from the National Security Commission on Artificial Intelligence warned that the government was “not prepared to defend the United States in the coming artificial intelligence (AI) era.”
“I am just tired of continuously chasing support and money to do my job. My office still has no billet [physical location] and no funding, this year and the next,” he wrote.