Rep. Mike Waltz, R-Fla., made a broad call today for Congress to establish a special committee on artificial intelligence (AI).

“From a congressional standpoint, I think we need a very small and select committee that spans different jurisdictions. Frankly, comprised of members who best understand this,” Rep. Waltz said during an Atlantic Council webinar on June 5.

“I think Congress has the ability to muck this up – and to screw this up, frankly – as much as they do to help. So, I think we really have to be very careful,” he said.

Rep. Waltz is an honorary co-chair of Atlantic Council’s Global Tech Security Commission alongside a bipartisan group of 10 other lawmakers. The group aims to create a global tech security strategy for safeguarding freedom around the world with an international network of multi-sector leaders.

When it comes to AI innovation and deployment, Rep. Waltz saw both sides of the coin.

On the one hand, tapping the brakes on development of the rapidly emerging technology could have positive repercussions from a safety and standards standpoint, Rep. Waltz said.

He said Congress should be “really slowing things down before we have full breakout to get some regulatory structure around it.” Rep. Waltz continued, “These breakout moments … could prove to be very dangerous.”

On the other hand, the congressman expressed concern in slowing down AI innovation, fearful that U.S. adversaries – like China – would pull ahead in the race.

“It seems to me that tapping the brakes could actually be incredibly dangerous,” Rep. Waltz said. “I would almost go so far as to say I would take an unregulated or less-than-ideally-regulated Western-developed AI rather than a Chinese Communist Party techno-dictatorship-developed AI that has the potential to dominate both militarily and economically – if those are our two bad choices.”

The lawmaker said during today’s event that Congress needs rapid movement when it comes to the lack of policy and regulation.

“I think we have some real catch-up to play here, and that’s the trick – the fine line we have to walk,” Rep. Waltz continued. “How do we do this ethically and responsibly while we have an adversary that just has their foot on the gas?”

He added, “We have to develop this in line with people who share our values.”

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Cate Burgan
Cate Burgan
Cate Burgan is a MeriTalk Senior Technology Reporter covering the intersection of government and technology.