Heinrich, Portman Secure Groundbreaking Advancements For Artificial Intelligence In FY21 NDAA

Senators spearhead effort to create a national strategy for AI and authorize $1.5 billion for AI initiatives over the next five years

WASHINGTON - U.S. Senators Martin Heinrich (D-N.M.) and Rob Portman (R-Ohio), the co-founders of the Senate Artificial Intelligence Caucus, have secured the most significant advancements for Artificial Intelligence (AI) ever included in a defense policy bill.

The National Defense Authorization Act for Fiscal Year 2021 (FY21 NDAA) authorizes versions of four major pieces of legislation championed by Senators Heinrich and Portman that include:

  • Artificial Intelligence Initiative Act (AI-IA) 
  • Artificial Intelligence for the Armed Forces Act 
  • National AI Research Resource Task Force Act 
  • Deepfakes Report Act

“Artificial intelligence – and the opportunities and challenges it will bring – will have serious national security implications," said Heinrich. "If we defer AI development to other nations, important ethical, safety, and privacy principles will be at risk, which not only harms the United States, but also the international community as a whole. I have been proud to work alongside Senator Portman to create bipartisan solutions and put into place policy, people, and potential for this new market to truly take transportation, health care, manufacturing, and national security to the next level. I will keep fighting for provisions like those that we secured in the FY21 NDAA to step up our domestic efforts and prevent the unethical use and proliferation of AI technologies around the globe, and right here in the U.S.”

“We cannot take America's AI leadership for granted. Right now, China is engaging in a full court press to unseat the United States’ dominance in AI,” said Portman. “I’m pleased the FY21 NDAA conference report includes the AI-IA, National AI Research Resource Task Force Act, Artificial Intelligence for the Armed Forces Act, and the Deepfakes Report Act which provide groundbreaking advancements in AI in our nation. By coordinating and synchronizing our country’s research and development efforts, these bipartisan bills ensure not just that the United States remains an AI leader, but that it does so by developing AI technology that prioritizes American values.”

Artificial Intelligence Initiative Act (AI-IA)

The FY21 NDAA includes a modified version of the Artificial Intelligence Initiative Act (AI-IA) aimed at bolstering U.S. leadership in Artificial Intelligence (AI) research and development. Senators Heinrich and Rob Portman (R-Ohio) introduced the original bill (S.1558) in 2019. The AI-IA included in the NDAA will stand up a National Artificial Intelligence Initiative Office to coordinate ongoing AI R&D and demonstration activities among civilian agencies, DOD and the Intelligence community. The bill also establishes the National Artificial Intelligence Advisory Committee to provide expert advice to policymakers and the Initiative Office. The legislation will also task the National Science Foundation with examining how the present and future U.S. workforce can better prepare for and integrate AI systems. Finally, the bill authorizes the National Institutes of Standards and Technology (NIST) to advance collaborative frameworks, standards, guidelines, and associated methods and techniques for AI and to support the development of technical standards and guidelines that promote trustworthy AI systems. Overall, the bill authorizes $1.5B over the next five years for these critical AI initiatives.

Artificial Intelligence for the Armed Forces Act

The conferenced NDAA included two provisions part of S. 3965, the Artificial Intelligence for the Armed Forces Act of 2020, introduced by Heinrich and Portman. The bill is aimed at advancing the Department of Defense’s Artificial Intelligence capabilities. Specifically, the provisions will:

  • Add an additional examination to the Armed Services Vocational Aptitude Battery (ASVAB) test to better recognize recruits with exceptional computational skills relevant to military applications. Every potential recruit must take the ASVAB test before being accepted into the Armed Services, this provision will help ensure that these valuable skills are part of recruiting the best and brightest minds in AI from around the country. 
  • Require the Secretary of Defense to provide guidance on the use of existing direct hiring processes for artificial intelligence professionals and other data science and software development personnel. Existing direct hiring authorities enable the Department of Defense to onboard talented, in-demand AI professionals quickly.

National AI Research Resource Task Force Act

The bill also includes a version of the National AI Research Resource Task Force Act (S. 3890) originally introduced by Senators Heinrich and Portman. The provision in the FY21 NDAA will establish a task force to develop a detailed roadmap for the development of a national cloud computer for Artificial Intelligence (AI) research. The cloud would give researchers and entrepreneurs around the country access to supercomputing capability once reserved only for national laboratories and universities – democratizing a critical component for AI R&D. Specifically, the legislation will convene a group of technical experts across academia, government, and industry to develop recommendations for how the United States can build, deploy, govern, and sustain the national research cloud.

Deepfakes Report Act

The conferenced NDAA includes a version of S. 2065 originally introduced by Heinrich and Portman. The provision in the FY21 NDAA requires the Department of Homeland Security to report on the state of digital content forgery technology – commonly known as “deepfakes”. The report will include an assessment of the underlying technologies used to create or propagate such forgeries and an assessment of how foreign governments, and the proxies and networks thereof, use (or could use) deepfakes to harm U.S. national security.