Trump launches AI leadership plan
- By Derek B. Johnson
- Feb 12, 2019
President Donald Trump signed the American AI Initiative on Feb. 11, directing federal agencies to invest more money and resources into the development of artificial intelligence technologies.
The executive order appears designed to prepare the federal government for what many experts believe will be a global race for AI dominance. It calls for the U.S. to continue its leadership in AI and lays out of five principles that will guide future actions: the U.S. must drive technological breakthroughs in AI, develop appropriate technical standards, train current and future generations of American workers to use and work in tandem with automated intelligence, foster public trust in AI technologies and promote an international environment that supports American research and innovation.
It also directs federal agencies to craft internal guidance for AI development across different technologies and sectors and calls on the National Institute of Standards and Technology to develop technical standards.
Agencies are also directed to increase access to their AI data and models by improving their inventories and prioritizing improvements to access and quality. High-performance computing resources at several agencies – the Departments of Defense, Commerce, Health and Human Services and Energy as well as NASA and the National Science Foundation -- are to be prioritized for AI-related applications.
The American AI Initiative also calls on agencies to invest more dollars into current and future programs, train workers for the coming paradigm shift towards automation and enhance "access to high-quality and fully traceable Federal data, models, and computing resources to increase the value of such resources for AI [research and development]."
Artificial intelligence is one of four emerging technologies (alongside advanced manufacturing, quantum computing and 5G) listed by Trump in his State of the Union speech where he called continued "investments in the cutting-edge industries of the future" a "necessity" for America to maintain its technological edge.
Last year, the administration created a select committee of experts to map out the government's R&D strategies around AI. As part of the order, the committee will develop recommendations on AI-related educational and workforce development initiatives and provide technical expertise on the topic to the National Council for the American Worker.
Policymakers are particularly concerned that China -- which has identified AI as a key pillar of its 2025 plan -- will outstrip U.S. investment and erode American dominance of the technology market.
However, the order does not include any additional funding, and some tech groups have wondered how much of an effect it will have on the status quo.
The Center for Data Innovation at the Information Technology and Innovation Foundation said the order will help push the U.S. government and private companies to keep pace with China, but that much more needs to be done.
"If the administration wants its AI initiative to be transformative, it will need to do more than reprogram existing funds for AI research, skill development, and infrastructure development," the group said in a statement.
The Center suggested calling on Congress for a significant funding increase around AI, limiting regulations on current projects, "rapidly" expanding AI adoption throughout government and implementing comprehensive reforms to workforce training and adjustment policies.
This article was first posted to FCW, a sibling site to GCN.
Derek B. Johnson is a senior staff writer at FCW, covering governmentwide IT policy, cybersecurity and a range of other federal technology issues.
Prior to joining FCW, Johnson was a freelance technology journalist. His work has appeared in The Washington Post, GoodCall News, Foreign Policy Journal, Washington Technology, Elevation DC, Connection Newspapers and The Maryland Gazette.
Johnson has a Bachelor's degree in journalism from Hofstra University and a Master's degree in public policy from George Mason University. He can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org, or follow him on Twitter @derekdoestech.
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