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Thank you, Hassan.

And thank you all for being here today, whether in person or virtually.

It is my pleasure to welcome everyone to Day 2 of this year’s Timbie Forum.  I’ve heard Day 1 was filled with some great discussions.

And I have no doubt that today’s discussion will be just as rewarding, given today’s lineup of speakers including senior practitioners in the field of arms control, nonproliferation, and international security and Senator Van Hollen.

I am honored to speak here today, especially since Jim Timbie was a longtime colleague, someone I admired for his diplomatic, policy, and bureaucratic savvy.

In my current role, I serve as the Assistant Secretary for the Bureau of International Security and Nonproliferation, or as we call it here in the Department, ISN.

Having served in the ISN front office since pretty much the inception of the bureau, I am proud that ISN is on the frontline of U.S. diplomacy countering some of the most dangerous threats around the world.

Today, ISN works to prevent the spread of weapons of mass destruction, delivery systems, and advanced conventional weapons capabilities—while also protecting from the misuse of critical and emerging technologies such as advanced semiconductors, Artificial Intelligence, biotechnology, and quantum information systems.

We track, develop, and implement policies and diplomatic responses to proliferation threats, roll back proliferation that has already taken root, and shape the international security environment to prevent their recurrence.

At the same time, ISN also has a promote mission, making sure that advanced technologies are available for peaceful uses.

For example, ISN promotes advanced nuclear technologies—such as Small Modular Reactors—as an important component of the clean energy solution.

While upholding the highest standards of safety, security, and nonproliferation, ISN promotes advanced nuclear technology as an important component of the clean energy solution.

Indeed, ISN has a large and varied mission space.   Our dedicated team made up of Civil Service, Foreign Service, contractors, and fellows of stripes –works hard to meet these challenges and opportunities while working in concert with the interagency and with our international partners to advance international security and nonproliferation.

Of course, when I came to the Department of State some 20 years ago, the predecessor bureau of ISN was primarily focused on the proliferation challenges posed by nation states and, in the aftermath of 9/11, terrorist use of weapons of mass destruction.

None of these threats have gone away or declined.  In fact, they have only intensified with the unstoppable progress of technology and, most importantly, the transition now taking place in the larger geostrategic environment.

Indeed, because of current convergence of revolutionary emerging technologies, we now have new and more complex problems to solve.  At the same time, the United States is no longer the preeminent global superpower.

While our military is still without a true peer, others are closing the capabilities gap.

Also, while the United States still leads the world in scientific advances and technological innovations, here too, the lead over others is shrinking.

The great power competition of the past has reemerged.  And we find ourselves now locked in an intense competition with authoritarian and revisionist powers.

President Biden has characterized this moment in history as an inflection point.  And Secretary Blinken has spoken about the current transition to the “post post-Cold War era.”

While long-standing nuclear, biological, chemical, and conventional arms proliferation threats persist, ISN will continue to focus on these threats.

However, ISN is now also keeping a sharp eye on the proliferation of game-changing technologies in the context of great power competition.

While these head-spinning technological advancements present tremendous opportunities for economic development as well as cultural advancement, they also represent new risks and vulnerabilities.

For example, AI is beginning to impact nearly everything we do.  As a foundational technology, it is sparking new innovations in many spheres of human endeavor.

Indeed, AI is poised to dramatically advance the field of biotechnology, which will no doubt lead to life-saving vaccines, help end malnutrition and hunger in some nations, and combat climate change.

However, in other ways, AI, like many new emerging technologies, is highly concerning.

Should hostile nations (or even sophisticated terrorist groups) turn these technologies toward the development and production of weapons of mass destruction and delivery vehicles, the result could present an existential threat to the United States and our allies and friends.

Now, regarding nations, we know that the People’s Republic of China is focused on using AI to increase not just its economic competitiveness, but also to advance its military and propaganda capabilities to overtake the United States and reshape the global order to make it more consistent with its authoritarian and statist ideology.

As the PRC pursues its ambitions, ISN is working to ensure that the most advanced technologies being developed in the United States and other like-minded nations are not being surreptitiously diverted by the PRC to its military and security services and turned against us and our allies and friends.

Indeed, for almost a decade, ISN has been leading the way in deepening our cooperation with our allies and partners to thwart the PRC’s so-called Military-Civil Fusion strategy, where the Chinese Communist Party takes technological innovations, whether indigenous or foreign in origins, to enhance the capabilities of the People’s Liberation Army.

This increasingly important area of ISN’s work has been dramatically boosted and accelerated by the priorities of the Biden Administration.

In the 2022 National Security Strategy, the Administration put forward three core themes: strategic competition with China and Russia; the importance of domestic industrial policy and investment; and a focus on climate change as a central challenge.

ISN’s mission components advances critical U.S. international security objectives related to all 3 themes.  Here are three examples:

  1. ISN has been a leader in advancing a new partnership with the U.K. and Australia called AUKUS to promote a free and open Indo-Pacific that is secure and stable.It has played an instrumental role in the first pillar of AUKUS—the initiative to support Australia’s acquisition of conventionally armed, nuclear-powered submarines while setting the highest nonproliferation standards.
  2. ISN is implementing parts of the CHIPS Act, which President Biden signed in August 2022.  This legislation provides the Department of State with $500 million to promote the development and adoption of secure and trustworthy telecommunications networks and ensure in coordination with partner nations a more resilient, diverse, and trustworthy semiconductor supply chain.Working closely with industry partners, the CHIPS Act also helps provide $52.7 billion for American semiconductor research, development, manufacturing, and workforce development.These funds also come with strong guardrails, and it is ISN’s mission to ensure that recipients do not transfer materials and know-how or build certain facilities in countries of concern.

    We are working to understand these technologies, keep up with their advancements, and establish a free and fair playing field where competitive American industry demonstrate their ability to lead on the world stage.

  3. As nations seek energy security as well as clean energy solutions and support long-term economic development, as mentioned earlier, ISN is promoting responsible use of nuclear energy and technology.Advancements in nuclear technology, such as Small Modular Reactors, make clean civil nuclear energy more attainable than ever before and help to counter the malign influence of actors like Russia and Iran in the international energy sector.Also, peaceful uses of nuclear technology and science in general are vital components of achieving UN Sustainable Development Goals– from combatting cancer to mitigating plastic pollution.  And ISN has been leading the global effort to do so.

As you can see, ISN is working to advance some of the top national security priorities of the Administration.  It is exciting work.  It’s also challenging and, at times, quite sobering.

Indeed, our work requires stamina, and a clear-eye view of the world.  And as the world changes around us with unsettling speed, we must be flexible and resilient.

Hence, I come to the final and perhaps the most important point of my remarks today.

ISN is trying to recruit the best and brightest to join our team.

We are particularly interested in technologists and scientists who can join international affairs experts in crafting 21st century diplomacy to advance U.S. national interests.

I understand many of you are considering beginning or advancing your careers in international security.

We would welcome your unique insights, perspectives, and experiences in helping us shape the diplomacy of today and tomorrow.

During this turbulent and transformative time, I hope you will think about these opportunities as we continue our discussions today.

Thank you all so much for participating in the Timbie Forum.

U.S. Department of State

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