Trump signs executive order to accelerate “America’s lead in artificial intelligence”

Feb. 14, 2019

Less than 4 months after announcing plans to boost the United States’ 5G wireless leadership, this week the Trump Administration announced a similar initiative, with President Donald Trump signing an executive order Monday aimed to “maintain American leadership in artificial intelligence.”

Coined as The American AI Initiative, the order’s purpose—stated by the White House Office of Science and Technology Policy (OSTP)—is to “focus the resources of the Federal government to develop AI in order to increase our Nation’s prosperity, enhance our national and economic security, and improve quality of life for the American people.”

Through allocating federal resources toward AI research and development, promoting AI technologies, preparing an American workforce that is AI-capable, and ensuring that such American-led AI technology stays within the U.S.

“Americans have profited tremendously from being the early developers and international leaders in AI,” the OSTP said Monday. “However, as the pace of AI innovation increases around the world, we cannot sit idly by and presume that our leadership is guaranteed. We must ensure that advances in AI remain fueled by American ingenuity, reflect American values, and are applied for the benefit of the American people.”

The American AI Initiative is based upon five principles, described by the OSTP as follows:

    1. Investing in AI Research and Development (R&D): The initiative focuses on maintaining our Nation’s strong, long-term emphasis on high-reward, fundamental R&D in AI by directing Federal agencies to prioritize AI investments in their R&D missions. These investments will strengthen and leverage America’s unique and vibrant R&D ecosystem of industry, academia, and government, and prioritize Federal AI spending on cutting-edge ideas that can directly benefit the American people.
    2. Unleashing AI Resources: The initiative directs agencies to make Federal data, models, and computing resources more available to America’s AI R&D experts, researchers, and industries to foster public trust and increase the value of these resources to AI R&D experts, while maintaining the safety, security, civil liberties, privacy, and confidentiality protections we all expect. This action will drive our top-notch AI research toward new technological breakthroughs and promote scientific discovery, economic competitiveness, and national security. These efforts will work in concert with the President’s Management Agenda and implementing the Open, Public, Electronic, and Necessary, (OPEN) Government Data Act.
    3. Setting AI Governance Standards: As part of the American AI Initiative, Federal agencies will foster public trust in AI systems by establishing guidance for AI development and use across different types of technology and industrial sectors. This guidance will help Federal regulatory agencies develop and maintain approaches for the safe and trustworthy creation and adoption of new AI technologies. This initiative also calls for the National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST) to lead the development of appropriate technical standards for reliable, robust, trustworthy, secure, portable, and interoperable AI systems.
    4. Building the AI Workforce: To prepare our workforce with the skills needed to adapt and thrive in this new age of AI, the American AI Initiative calls for agencies to prioritize fellowship and training programs to help American workers gain AI-relevant skills through apprenticeships, skills programs, fellowships, and education in computer science and other growing Science, Technology, Engineering, and Math (STEM) fields. This action will help educate the AI R&D workforce our Nation needs to create and embrace new AI technologies.
    5. International Engagement and Protecting our AI Advantage: The Trump Administration is committed to promoting an international environment that supports AI R&D and opens markets for American AI industries while also ensuring that the technology is developed in a manner consistent with our Nation’s values and interests. Federal agencies will also develop and implement an action plan to protect the advantage of the United States in AI and technology critical to United States national and economic security interests against strategic competitors and foreign adversaries.

2018 report released in October by the U.S. House of Representatives Oversight and Government Reform Committee's Subcommittee on Information Technology showed that China is the U.S.’ largest AI market competitor, with China increasing its AI research and development funding by 200% between 2000 and 2015, with the nation on pace to surpass the U.S. in such investments by the end of 2018. That report’s executive summary emphasized a need for government engagement to boost American AI.

“Chief among the subcommittee’s recommendations is for the federal government to increase federal spending on research and development to maintain American leadership with respect to AI,” the report stated. “In response to concerns about AI’s potential economic impact, federal, state, and local agencies are encouraged to engage more with stakeholders on the development of effective strategies for improving the education, training, and reskilling of American workers to be more competitive in an AI-driven economy. The subcommittee further recommends the federal government lead by example by investing more in education and training programs that would allow for its current and future workforce to gain necessary AI skills.

The executive order signed by Trump Monday appears to be a direct response to that report’s call-to-action.

“The American AI Initiative is accelerating our Nation’s leadership in AI,” the OSTP said Monday. “By driving technological breakthroughs in AI, breaking barriers to AI innovation, preparing our workforce for the jobs of the future, and protecting America’s advantage in AI we are ensuring that AI technologies continue to improve the lives of our people, create jobs, reflect our Nation’s values, and keep Americans safe at home and abroad.”

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