Towards Meaningful Quad Cooperation on Intelligence

The Quad has a lot to do. The informal grouping of Australia, India, Japan and the United States started small, but grew in ambition two years ago, with regular summit meetings and an ever-expanding work programme. Recognizing the lack of effective groupings to address some of the Indo-Pacific region’s thorniest issues, the Quad has taken on the task of providing international public goods. Its work program is dizzying in scope, covering everything from climate change to telecommunications regulation to international stock exchanges.

It may be time, however, for the Quad to embark on another endeavor – intelligence cooperation. In particular, the Quad is perfectly suited for developing new intelligence tools and business management practices to harness the potential of artificial intelligence (AI).

Risks and opportunities for collaboration

Sharing intelligence is a heavy proposition. The intelligence services jealously guard their secrets. The United States and Australia at least have the advantage of being members of the Five Eyes intelligence alliance, with deep-rooted institutional ties and trust built on decades of shoulder-to-shoulder cooperation. Japan is outside this tent, but is at least a US treaty ally, with extensive military cooperation. India is a newer security partner, which still lacks reliable systems or sharing habits with its Quad partners.

The risk of counterintelligence would be more real than ever, but manageable.

Collaborating on AI tools and processes can seem especially challenging because this advanced technology is still so nascent and mastering it will be so important to national security. But that is precisely what makes it so important. As it matures, AI has the potential to transform every intelligence function: automation can help tell sensors to close collection gaps; data analysis can structure, merge and sort colossal amounts of raw data; machine learning can quickly detect anomalies or changes and bring them to the attention of analysts; etc

On the AI, Quad members India and Japan would bring benefits that Five Eyes members cannot muster. They are both AI powerhouses, but bring particular strengths in a huge pool of AI-trained talent and computing power, respectively. When these resources are pooled, they would represent a significant contribution to the intelligence capabilities of the United States and its extravagantly resourced allies. In the race for digital mastery, like-minded Indo-Pacific partners need all the help they can get.

The risk of counterintelligence would be more real than ever, but manageable. Collaboration with AI would require sharing business tools and processes, not sensitive sources and methods. Some data sharing would be required, but data can be compartmentalized and prioritized so that a more sensitive subset of data remains more restricted.

The AI ​​tools themselves are largely sourced from the private sector – start-ups such as CuttingEdgeAI, developer of a moving video object detection tool, now supply various branches of the US government. The tools may also come from foreign start-ups – Indian company 114ai, developer of a space and multi-domain awareness tool, has also won contracts with the US government and defense industry. Collaboration on AI tools and processes therefore does not require rethinking existing classification rules. Indeed, export controls can be a bigger barrier than data classification.

Collaboration with AI would require sharing business tools and processes, not sensitive sources and methods (Adri Salido/Anadolu Agency via Getty Images)
Collaboration with AI would require sharing business tools and processes, not sensitive sources and methods (Adri Salido/Anadolu Agency via Getty Images)

Why AI matters

Sharing assessments is a relatively simple and therefore tempting form of intelligence cooperation. But the effects of such cooperation are short-lived and limited. If Quad members could co-develop and share new AI tools and business management processes, they would develop long-term capabilities with cascading effects. At a minimum, each member’s intelligence system would be individually better equipped for strategic competition with China. Ideally, they would also develop common standards and more interoperable systems – which would lay the groundwork for cooperation in a host of other intelligence or operational areas.

Sharing assessments is a relatively simple and therefore tempting form of intelligence cooperation. But the effects of such cooperation are short-lived and limited.

Part of this would enable existing Quad policy initiatives. The Indo-Pacific Partnership for Maritime Domain Awareness (IPMDA), for example, will leverage commercially available data and AI to create a Common Operating Picture (COP) of the Indo-Pacific waterways. Peaceful. Improved AI tools to merge, process and disseminate this data would enable IPMDA to deliver faster and more accurate results. AI capabilities would also allow the Quad to focus on humanitarian aid and disaster relief, with tools to gather faster, even predictive signals and intelligence on how to deploy disaster responders. ’emergency.

But collaborative AI capabilities would also equip the Quad to deepen military cooperation, should its leaders choose to take this unprecedented step. The militaries of Quad members cooperate – for example in the Malabar series of naval exercises – although outside the official Quad agenda. Whether formally a Quad initiative or not, its members could use AI collaboration to develop a bespoke COP. The United States and Japan recently launched such a project for the East China Sea. Other members of the Quad could explore similar ventures around, for example, the Straits of Malacca, Lombok and Sunda, to jointly find and track targets.

Ultimately, AI-enabled intelligence could help Quad members lay the foundation for more effective combined military activities to deter and win conflict. But assuming that military role remains a political decision for Quad leaders, which can be even more difficult than sharing intelligence.

Similar Posts