AI Update: Provisions in the National Defense Authorization Act Signal the Importance of AI to American Competitiveness – Lexology

The newly enacted National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA) contains important provisions regarding the development and deployment of artificial intelligence (AI) and machine learning technologies, many of which build upon previous legislation introduced in the 116th Congress. The most substantial federal U.S. legislation on AI to date, these provisions will have significant implications in the national security sector and beyond. The measures in the NDAA will coordinate a national strategy on research, development, and deployment of AI, guiding investment and aligning priorities for its use.

President Trump had vetoed the NDAA after its initial passage in December, but the $740 billion NDAA became law over the objection of President Trumps veto with a rare New Years Day Senate vote, 81-13. The House voted to override President Trumps veto on December 28, on a 322-87 vote.

This post highlights some of the key AI provisions included in the NDAA.

I. Establishment of the National Artificial Intelligence Initiative

Building on concepts set forth in prior legislation, including the National Artificial Intelligence Initiative Act of 2020 (S. 1558, H.R. 6216) introduced in the 116th Congress, Title E of the NDAA mandates the establishment of a National Artificial Initiative, for the purpose of:

In support of those goals, the AI Initiative activities will include:

To implement the AI Initiative, the NDAA mandates the creation of a National Artificial Intelligence Initiative Office under the White House Office of Science and Technology Policy (OSTP) to undertake the AI Initiative activities, as well as an interagency National Artificial Intelligence Advisory Committee to coordinate federal activities pertaining to the AI Initiative. In addition, the Secretary of Commerce, in consultation with other government officials, will establish a National Artificial Intelligence Advisory Committee comprised of members who collectively will provide a broad range of expertise and perspectives. The statute requires the Advisory Committee to establish a subcommittee on AI and law enforcement.

II. Development of Frameworks through the National Institute of Standards

Building on provisions of several pieces of legislation introduced in the 116th Congress, including the National Artificial Intelligence Initiative Act of 2020 (S. 1558, H.R. 6216) and Advancing Artificial Intelligence Research Act of 2020 (S. 3891), the NDAA directs the National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST) to support the development of relevant standards and best practices pertaining to both artificial intelligence and data sharing. To support these efforts, Congress has appropriated $400 million to NIST through FY 2025.

Specifically, the statute directs NIST to:

In addition, the legislation also grants the Director of NIST the discretion to:

Furthermore, NIST is instructed to (1) develop, in collaboration with public and private organizations, a voluntary risk management framework for trustworthy AI, (2) participate in the development of AI standards and specifications, (3) develop, in collaboration with public and private organizations, guidance to assist with voluntary data sharing among a range of organizations, and (4) develop, in collaboration with public and private sector organizations, best practices for datasets used to train AI, including with respect to documentation.

III. Department of Defense Artificial Intelligence Provisions

The NDAA has several AI-related provisions pertaining to the Department of Defense (DOD). Most notably, in relation to the Joint Artificial Intelligence Center (JAIC), the new law:

Other notable DOD AI provisions include:

IV. Department of Energy AI Research Program

The NDAA authorizes $1.2 billion through FY 2025 for a Department of Energy (DOE) artificial intelligence research program, identifying seven key areas for research grants, including the analysis and development of standardized data sets and development of trustworthy AI systems. To support this program, the Energy Secretary is directed to take certain actions, including making infrastructure, hardware, and software investments and collaborating with many stakeholders. In carrying out the program, DOE is also directed to support technology transfers of artificial intelligence systems in support of society and United States economic competitiveness.

V. Other Provisions Expanding Research, Development and Deployment of AI

The NDAA includes several other provisions pertaining to AI. For example, it allocates $4.8 billion to the National Science Foundation, which, among other things, will form a task force, in coordination with OSTP, to investigate the establishment of a National AI Research Resource. These provisions follow those in last sessions National AI Research Resource Task Force Act / National Cloud Computing Task Force Act (H.R.7096, S.3890) , and contemplate that the National Artificial Intelligence Research Resource, if established, among other things, may create a shared computing infrastructure for researchers throughout the United States. Similar to provisions of last sessions National Artificial Intelligence Initiative Act of 2020 (S. 1558, H.R. 6216), the NDAA also authorizes NSF to support the development of a network of inter-disciplinary AI research hubs or institutes to focus on challenges for AI systems such as trustworthiness or that focus on particular economic or social sectors.

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AI Update: Provisions in the National Defense Authorization Act Signal the Importance of AI to American Competitiveness - Lexology

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