Portman, Heinrich Introduce Bipartisan Legislation to Strengthen Department of Defense’s AI Capacity

June 16, 2020 | Press Releases

WASHINGTON, DC – Today, U.S. Senators Rob Portman (R-OH) and Martin Heinrich (D-NM), the co-founders of the Senate Artificial Intelligence Caucus, introduced the bipartisan Artificial Intelligence for the Armed Forces Act which will strengthen the Department of Defense’s artificial intelligence (AI) capacity by increasing the number of AI and cyber professionals in the department.

“The American military should utilize every tool available, including artificial intelligence, to carry out its mission. The National Security Commission on AI has done great work researching how to make the United States more competitive and capable when it comes to AI. But their work is only half the battle,” said Portman. “This bipartisan legislation builds on the Commission’s efforts to strengthen the AI capabilities of our military by enabling the increased hiring of AI and cyber professionals.” 

“As advances are made in artificial intelligence - and as foreign adversaries threaten ethical, safety, and privacy standards – there is a clear need to ensure the Department of Defense has the leadership and workforce needed to excel in AI,” said Heinrich. “We must make sure DoD is using the tools at their disposal to recruit the next generation of AI professionals and give them the authority they need to hire experts in the field. I am proud to join Senator Portman in this bipartisan effort to enhance DoD’s AI capabilities and I will keep working to develop smart, responsible policies that keep our nation at the forefront of critical artificial intelligence innovations.” 

Specifically, the Artificial Intelligence for the Armed Forces Act:

  • Requires the Director of the Joint Artificial Intelligence Center to report directly to the Secretary of Defense;
  • Ensures that the Director of the Joint Artificial Intelligence Center is three-star equivalent;
  • Requires the Secretary of Defense to develop a training and certification program to better enable DoD’s human resources workforce to bring AI and cyber professionals into the Department;
  • Requires the Secretary of Defense to issue guidance on how the Department can better use existing direct hire authority to onboard AI professionals;
  • Provides officers with a grade of major general or above with authority to waive GS qualification standards for applicants with exceptional AI skills; and
  • Modifies the Armed Services Vocational Aptitude test to add a computational assessment to identify applicants with skills in AI.

These provisions implement the recommendations made by the National Security Commission on Artificial Intelligence in March 2020.

NOTE: As co-founder and co-chair of the Senate Artificial Intelligence Caucus, Portman has helped lead efforts in the Senate on this issue, and has worked in a bipartisan manner on several key measures to set high-quality standards around emerging technology, including cybersecurity and artificial intelligence.