Portman, Schatz Reintroduce Legislation to Improve Federal Government’s Use of Artificial Intelligence

May 8, 2019

WASHINGTON, DC – Today, U.S. Senators Rob Portman (R-OH), Brian Schatz (D-HI), Cory Gardner (R-CO), and Kamala Harris (D-CA) reintroduced the Artificial Intelligence (AI) in Government Act, 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.

“Artificial intelligence will have significant impacts for our country, economy, and society,” said Senator 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.”

“We can’t continue to lead the world in AI technology if our own government isn’t making the most of it,” said Senator Schatz. “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 Senator 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.”

“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 Senator 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 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.”

“On behalf of America's tech workers, IEEE-USA fully supports the AI in Government Act. This important bill will help the US government to capture the promise of artificial intelligence for the American public,” said Dr. Tom Coughlin, President of the Institute for Electrical and Electronics Engineers-USA.

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.

The legislation has been endorsed BSA | The Software Alliance, Center for Data Innovation, Committee for Justice, Data Coalition, Engine, Institute for Electrical and Electronics Engineers, Internet Association, Lincoln Network, Microsoft, and Facebook.