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U.S. Army Faces a Made-in-America Controversy Over Robots

Many have worried that advances in artificial intelligence and robotics could put people out of work.

For those in the United States Army, seeing robots take over certain dangerous jobs, like defusing bombs, as the Associated Press reports, might be welcome. Just one Army contract on the robotics front is worth about $500 million for 3,000 backpack-sized robots that could not only work as the bomb squad, but also scout enemy positions.

The U.S. Navy, Marines, and Air Force are also putting money into big automation projects. But there’s a problem: potential security flaws.

In a world where hackers can infiltrate high secure computer systems and even remotely take over a car, security is an issue. The federal government is concerned about security risks, especially if equipment or software comes from China.

Rising tensions between the U.S. and China have spilled into the tech realm, particularly as some Chinese companies have become global heavyweights. The arrest of Huawei’s CFO was one result.

Another may be a coming executive ban on U.S. companies using telecommunications equipment from Huawei or another Chinese company, ZTE. A law passed in August already banned the federal government from using equipment from the two.

Security officials from multiple countries have expressed concern that the equipment could open a back door to spying by the Chinese government.

The questions about security multiply in discussions of the military. If concerns are correct, not only could a foreign power eavesdrop on classified information, but in theory take control of equipment, endangering military personnel.