Good afternoon. It’s such a pleasure to join you all today. I want to begin by thanking Eric Schmidt, Ylli Bajraktari, and everyone involved in the Special Competitive Studies Project for organizing a really fantastic program today, and for all the important work you to do shape how all of us think about technology in foreign policy.
I also want to thank Warren Wilson for that very kind introduction. Warren, we know you’re doing great work at SCSP, but I have to take the opportunity to remind you to be sure to come back to the Department of State, because we need your talents. And I want to give a special shout-out to Joe Wang, who will be moderating the Q&A portion of our session today. Joe was one of my Special Assistants on “P staff,” as we say here, back when I was Undersecretary of State for Political Affairs. Joe, it’s great to work with you again.
As you all know better than just about anyone, we are living in a time of extraordinary technological and scientific change. New technologies are reshaping how we live, how we work, and how we learn. Advances in clean energy are changing how we power our economies. Biotechnology is uncovering new medical advances and new methods of manufacturing them. The Internet is enabling new ways of doing business, of advancing research, of sharing knowledge—even of conducting diplomacy.
But we have seen these advances turned to darker purposes, as well. Ransomware attacks extorting money from individuals, from companies, even from governments. Surveillance technologies used by authoritarian leaders to crack down on dissent. The awesome power of the Internet exploited to spread disinformation and lies, to sow distrust and division, to recruit terrorists and encourage acts of violence.
We are also living in a time of incredible technological competition. This competition cuts across the public and private sectors, across civilian and military uses, across hardware and software, design and manufacturing, computing and biotechnology. But it’s not only about the technologies themselves. It’s also about
the norms, rules, and standards we use to govern how those technologies are used. And that is one of the reasons why technology must be an enduring part of our work as diplomats.
The United States has a vested national security interest in making sure technological advances benefit the American people, our allies and partners, and people around the world.
To do that, we must make the investments we need at home—in digital connectivity, in semiconductors and other critical components of the supply chain, in biotechnology, in artificial intelligence, in advanced manufacturing—to not only strengthen our economy and protect our national security, but to help support a global innovation ecosystem of trusted technology.
And at the same time, we must work with our Allies and partners to make sure that this revolution in digital and emerging technologies serves to strengthen the rules-based international order, not to undercut it.
And there are those who are actively working to undercut it. As Secretary Blinken said earlier this year, the People’s Republic of China wants to use its position as a leader in technology and manufacturing to make other countries dependent on them, and then leverage those relationships to impose their own policy preferences. We’ve seen the lengths to which the PRC is willing to go in this sphere: perfecting mass surveillance in their own country and exporting that technology around the world; forcing Western companies to transfer technological know-how to the government in Beijing if they want to operate in the Chinese market; and even taking advantage of the open nature of the Internet to hack our companies and steal trade secrets to advance their domestic industries.
So this is a critical moment—to invest in our industrial base, and to encourage our Allies and partners to do the same, so that we’re strengthening our competitive edge, not losing ground… to shape the standards that govern new technology so that they respect human rights, not oppress them… to work with the private sector to fight against disinformation, so that technology works for democracy, not against it… to protect the integrity of the global technology ecosystem, so that we can prevent our competitors from using our technology against us—or against their own people.
The free and open, interoperable, secure, and reliable Internet can be a powerful enabler of truth, trust, and human connection.
Consider the difference between how the Internet works in Ukraine today—and how it’s being managed in Russia.
In Ukraine, we have seen President Volodymyr Zelenskyy harness the Internet to rally his people to fight back against a brutal, grinding, unprovoked, and illegal war of aggression. We have seen ordinary Ukrainians risk everything to use their cell phones to document atrocities and share information. We have seen mental health professionals use videoconferencing tools to offer treatment to survivors of Russian occupation. And we’ve seen tech companies in the United States and elsewhere stepping up as well—providing cloud services to protect Ukraine’s government data, supporting cybersecurity and Internet access, helping connect refugees with resources.
Across the border in Russia, on the other hand, we’ve seen the Kremlin taking extraordinary steps to crack down on internet freedom in their own country. The Kremlin first throttled access to certain social media platforms, and then blocked them entirely. They barred news outlets from using words like “war” and “invasion,” and have arrested people for posting the truth about the war. That’s all on top of massive cyberattacks launched against Ukraine in the early days of the invasion—which we were able to trace to Russian intelligence services. So the Kremlin is attempting to simultaneously weaponize the Internet against their own people and against the Ukrainian people.
We need to work together—with our Allies and partners, with the private sector, with academic researchers and with civil society—to uphold and strengthen a global framework for how nations behave in cyberspace in order to promote lasting peace, and prevent further conflict.
To hold malicious cyber actors—whether state-sponsored or private—accountable for their actions, because cyberattacks are not victimless crimes.
To help other countries build their own capacity to withstand cyberattacks that could damage their security, their economies, and their citizens’ trust.
To redouble our efforts with trusted vendors in the private sector to build digital infrastructure that users around the world can rely on to keep their personal data secure and protect their privacy.
To invest in innovation in the United States and in other likeminded countries—so the tools and technologies of the future are built to expand opportunity, not diminish freedom.
At the State Department, Secretary Blinken has made elevating cyber and emerging technology issues a top priority. That work is well underway. After announcing plans last fall to create a new Bureau for Cyberspace and Digital Policy and a new Special Envoy for Critical and Emerging Technology, we cut the ribbon to open the new Bureau in April.
I am absolutely thrilled to be able to say that our new Ambassador-at-Large for Cyberspace and Digital Policy, Nate Fick, was confirmed just yesterday by voice vote. I know Nate is ready to hit the ground running, and we are so excited to welcome him to the Department.
We are also working to ensure the United States maintains and strengthens our position as a global leader across the entire constellation of technologies that will shape our future—from artificial intelligence, to semiconductors, to biotechnology.
We recognize that advances in artificial intelligence will have profound implications for international security and stability, and are working with our Allies and partners to develop a shared understanding of how to responsibly develop, deploy, and use AI technologies—including in defense systems.
The recent CHIPS and Science Act not only made an unprecedented investment in our domestic capacity to develop and manufacture semiconductors, it also included $500 million for an International Technology Security Innovation Fund at the State Department. This fund will support international projects on semiconductors and security of information and communications technologies, and is part of our broader effort to build a strong innovation ecosystem with Allies and partners around the world.
And earlier this week, President Biden signed two new executive orders that will help drive our efforts. First, a wide-ranging executive order on biotechnology and the bioeconomy, which charges the Department of State and other foreign policy agencies with deepening our international cooperation on biotechnology, regulatory best practices, data sharing, supply chains, and national security challenges, among other areas. And second, an executive order providing guidance to the Committee on Foreign Investment on the United States, directing it to consider the impact of foreign investments on U.S. leadership in critical and emerging technologies and supply chain resiliency when assessing the national security risks of a given transaction.
This approach means that not only are we investing in technological innovation and in our industrial base at home, we are working to encourage our Allies and partners to do the same. To invest. To innovate. To work alongside us to shape the future of these technologies—what they are, where they’re built, why they’re used, and how they’re governed.
So the State Department’s work on technology is about much more than a reorganization. It’s about significantly increasing our capacity and expertise to understand and address the challenges and the opportunities of new technologies. It’s about recruiting and retaining the talent we need right now—and creating career paths to build a strong team to lead this work in the long term. And it’s about deepening our diplomatic bench for engagement with like-minded partners, with business, with academic researchers, and with civil society to build the future we want to see.
To that end, we are working with our Allies and partners to align our efforts, including through initiatives like the U.S.-EU Trade and Technology Council, the Quad Critical and Emerging Technology Working Group, the Indo-Pacific Economic Framework, and the Americas Partnership for Economic Prosperity. We are working together to promote a holistic, positive, high-standards vision for the digital economy; to build secure and reliable supply chains for the technology components we all need; to enhance our coordination on critical and emerging technologies; and to preserve a level, transparent playing field for our industries.
And we are campaigning hard on behalf of our candidate to lead the International Telecommunication Union, Doreen Bogdan-Martin. For those who aren’t familiar with it, the ITU plays a vital role in setting global telecommunication standards and allocating spectrum—so that everything from the phone in your pocket to satellites in orbit can connect and communicate. The ITU also supports sustainable development by marshaling public and private financing and technical expertise to expand digital infrastructure.
Doreen has more than three decades of experience—including at the ITU—and she’s incredibly well-qualified for the job and passionate about the ITU’s mission. She has spearheaded initiatives to improve connectivity for people around the world. She has built innovative partnerships with stakeholders to help the ITU expand its work. And she approaches her work with ITU member states with integrity, honesty, and transparency. So we are very hopeful that Doreen will be elected Secretary General at the ITU plenipotentiary in Bucharest later this month.
It all comes down to this: It’s up to us—all of us—to build the future of cyberspace and technology that we want to see. We cannot take for granted that the free and open, interoperable, secure, and reliable Internet will continue into the future if we do not take steps to protect it. We cannot take for granted that the private sector will be able to continue to enjoy the competitive benefits of their investments and innovations if we do not act to prevent the theft of trade secrets and to keep the global playing field level.
This is not just a job for the State Department – or the federal government – or governments around the world. It’s a job for the public sector and the private sector. Civil society and academic researchers. Technologists and human rights advocates. Engineers and educators. Military leaders and civilians. All of us bringing our expertise to the table, all of us listening to and learning from each other, and all of us working together to make sure that technology works for the good. I can assure you America’s diplomats will do our part.
Thank you, and I look forward to your questions.