The Federal government needs to develop action plans to respond to the potential benefits and risks of a rapidly evolving artificial intelligence (AI) landscape – such as more clarity around internal leadership, more staff, and more funding – according to the National AI Advisory Committee’s (NAIAC) inaugural report released Tuesday.

The NAIAC – set up by lawmakers to operate under the Commerce Department as part of the National AI Initiative Act of 2020 – consists of 26 AI experts tasked with advising the President and the White House National AI Initiative Office (NAIIO) on how to leverage AI “in a uniquely American way … that prioritizes democratic values and civil liberties, while also increasing opportunity.”

The report is broken down into four major themes: AI leadership, leadership in research and development, supporting the workforce and providing opportunity, and international cooperation.

Under each theme, the committee is offering several objectives – and because the report is intended to be actionable – objectives are tied to recommended actions. In total, the NAIAC presents 13 objectives and 23 recommended actions.

“Ultimately, this report frames AI as a technology that requires immediate, significant, and sustained government attention. The U.S. government must ensure AI-driven systems are safe and responsible, while also fueling innovation and opportunity at the public and private levels,” the report reads.

Leadership in Trustworthy AI

According to the committee, the government needs more and clearer leadership around AI to respond to the potential benefits and risks of a rapidly evolving AI landscape.

“There is a lack of clarity on who is participating and leading the U.S. government’s current AI ecosystem,” the report said.

Among several action items, the NAIAC recommends the creation of a chief AI officer or tapping existing chief technology or chief information officers at each department or agency, “to provide clarity and transparency while ensuring the executive branch captures the benefits and promotes the adoption of trustworthy AI inside and outside of government.”

“Requirements should be implemented to foster agencies’ strategic planning around AI, increase awareness about agencies’ use and regulation of AI and strengthen public confidence in the Federal government’s commitment to trustworthy AI,” the report says.

The report also recommends the White House fill vacant AI leadership roles such as the director of the NAIIO and the chief technology officer.

In addition, the committee recognized that there are some existing frameworks around AI already, such as the National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST) AI Risk Management Framework (RMF) which the agency released earlier this year.

The report recommends that the White House encourage Federal agencies to implement the NIST AI RMF or similar processes and policies that align with the AI RMF, to address risks in all phases of the AI lifecycle effectively, with appropriate evaluation and iteration in place.

Leadership in Research and Development

The U.S. government plays a key role in ensuring that AI advancements have the broadest possible benefit to society, according to the report. Therefore, to ensure continued U.S. leadership in AI, the President should consider taking steps to coordinate and galvanize efforts across three essential functions concerning the AI research and development ecosystem: measure, analyze, and inform.

The report specifically recommends that the U.S. government create an AI Research and Innovation Observatory (AIRIO) – which could be housed at the National Science Foundation – that identifies and measures key indicators of technical progress in AI spanning research and innovation.

“It would analyze overall impacts and costs across the global AI ecosystem. It would also inform stakeholders across the government of progress to help steer the co-evolution of AI technology and policy, maximizing the impact of the U.S. government’s investments in AI,” the report states.

Supporting the U.S. Workforce and Providing Opportunity

The broad adoption of AI technologies and the ethical and sociotechnical questions and concerns they generate makes AI workforce readiness more urgent. According to the report, the U.S. government is uniquely positioned to provide a national example for the cross-functional, interdisciplinary application of AI throughout its workforce.

To scale an AI-capable Federal workforce NAIAC recommends the government:

  • Develop an approach to train the current and future Federal workforce for the AI era;
  • Train a new generation of AI-skilled civil servants;
  • Invest in AI opportunities for the Federal workforce;
  • Boost short-term Federal AI talent; and
  • Reform immigration policies to attract and retain international tech talent.

In addition, NAIAC recommends the Labor Department prioritize and request adequate funding for ongoing efforts to modernize the Federal Workforce and Labor Market Information system, which provides critical survey-based macroeconomic information at the national level.

“The WLMI typically falls short of providing the necessary real-time information to employers, workers, job seekers, training providers, and policymakers with sufficient granularity to deliver regional or local workforce insights and opportunities,” the report states.

The NAIAC states that with the appropriate investments and privacy safeguards in place, AI-driven tools coupled with real-time labor market data can enable workers to not only adapt to a changing workplace but also thrive.

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Lisbeth Perez
Lisbeth Perez
Lisbeth Perez is a MeriTalk Senior Technology Reporter covering the intersection of government and technology.