Sens. Brian Schatz, Cory Gardner (R-Colo.), Rob Portman (R-Ohio), and Kamala Harris (D-Calif.) reintroduced the Artificial Intelligence (AI) in Government Act on Wednesday, May 8, 2019, legislation that would improve the use of AI across the federal government by providing access to technical expertise and streamlining hiring within the agencies. Federal agencies are also directed to develop governance plans to promote government uses of AI that benefit the public while establishing best practices for identifying and mitigating bias and other negative unintended consequences.
“We can’t continue to lead the world in AI technology if our own government isn’t making the most of it,” said Sen. Schatz, the ranking member of the Senate Subcommittee on Communications, Technology, Innovation, and the Internet. “Our bill will give the federal government the resources it needs to hire experts, do research, and work across federal agencies to use AI technologies in smart and effective ways.”
“While C-3PO isn’t yet a reality in today’s world, artificial intelligence certainly is,” said Sen. Gardner. “Our bill will bring agencies, industry, and others to the table to discuss government adoption of artificial intelligence and emerging technologies. We need a better understanding of the opportunities and challenges these technologies present for federal government use and this legislation would put us on the path to achieve that goal.”
The AI in Government Act would:
- Create a Center of Excellence within the General Services Administration to provide technical expertise to relevant government agencies; conduct forward-looking, original research on federal AI policy; and promote U.S. competitiveness through agency and industry cooperation;
- Establish an advisory board to address AI policy opportunities and challenges for executive agencies;
- Direct executive agencies to create governance plans to advance innovative uses and reduce barriers to AI for the benefit of the public while upholding civil liberties, privacy, and civil rights; and
- Direct the Office of Personnel Management to identify skills and competencies for AI and establish a new or update an existing occupational series.
“Artificial intelligence will have significant impacts for our country, economy, and society,” said Sen. Portman. “Ensuring that our government has the capabilities and expertise to help navigate those impacts will be important in the coming years and decades. This bipartisan legislation will help ensure our government understands the benefits and pitfalls of this technology as it engages in a responsible, accountable rollout of AI.”
“As we embrace the new jobs and new opportunities brought about by the growth of artificial intelligence, we must also be clear about the potential downsides of this powerful technology, including racial and gender bias,” said Sen. Harris. “I’m proud to join my colleagues in reintroducing this legislation to ensure that the federal government has the tools it needs to adopt AI technology in a smart way that benefits all Americans.”
The legislation has been endorsed BSA | The Software Alliance, Center for Democracy and Technology, Center for Data Innovation, Committee for Justice, Data Coalition, Engine, Facebook, Institute for Electrical and Electronics Engineers, Internet Association, Lincoln Network, Microsoft, and Facebook.
“As both an adopter and regulator of artificial intelligence systems, it is crucial that the federal government consider how its own uses of AI would allow the federal government to offer services in better and smarter ways, support and improve AI research, and avoid pitfalls like bias in automated decisions,” said Chris Calabrese, vice president of policy at the Center for Democracy and Technology. “In so doing, federal agencies can also establish a model for ensuring that AI and automated systems are developed and deployed in ways that maximize the benefits and minimize the risks to impacted people. CDT applauds the “AI in Government Act” and hopes it can bring about a comprehensive approach to representing the public interest as the government adopts and deploys new technologies.”
“The AI in Government Act of 2019 is a common-sense approach to promoting responsible, transparent use of emerging technologies and artificial intelligence systems in our society,” said Nick Hart, Ph.D., CEO of the Data Coalition. “The Data Coalition applauds the proposal to encourage innovative and rigorous data analysis capabilities for improved decision-making, while facilitating equitable uses and appropriate privacy protections.”
“Microsoft is encouraged by the reintroduction of this legislation,” said Fred Humphries, corporate vice president of U.S. government affairs for Microsoft. “It would create a Center for Excellence and an advisory board to guide the government on emerging technologies. And it would require agencies to publish governance plans for AI systems, including policies, principles, and guidelines. Overall, it’s a good approach and we thank Senators Schatz and Gardner for their leadership.”
“On behalf of America’s tech workers, IEEE-USA fully supports the AI in Government Act,” said Dr. Tom Coughlin, president of the Institute for Electrical and Electronics Engineers-USA. “This important bill will help the US government to capture the promise of artificial intelligence for the American public.”