President Biden on Oct. 17 signed into law the Artificial Intelligence Training for the Acquisition Workforce Act, which aims to improve the Federal workforce’s understanding of AI and ensure its ethical and safe use.

The legislation – introduced by Sens. Gary Peters, D-Mich., and Rob Portman, R-Ohio, in July 2021 – will create a training program to help Federal employees responsible for purchasing AI technologies better understand its risks and benefits.

The law requires the director of the Office of Management and Budget (OMB) to provide and regularly update the AI training program. It also encourages the OMB director to work with scholars and experts from the public and private sectors to develop the training.

“When the government purchases AI to improve government functions, we need to know that the AI we buy actually works and meets standards for ethics and safety,” Sen. Portman said in a statement. “That’s why I’m pleased the bipartisan AI Training Act has been signed into law. This law will train our procurement professionals about the ins and outs of AI so they can discern which AI systems are useful to the government and which are not.”

The Senate passed the legislation in December 2021. Rep. Carolyn B. Maloney, D-N.Y., led the bill through the House, which passed it on Sept. 29, 2022.

Innovation Unleashed
Learn how technology is helping government leaders. Register.

“If used improperly, artificial intelligence could present a serious threat to the rights and liberties of Michiganders and people across the country. That is why the Federal workforce must better understand how these technologies could impact the safety, security, and freedoms of all Americans,” Sen. Peters said in a statement. “Now that this commonsense, bipartisan legislation has been signed into law, Federal workers will be better prepared to use this technology in a way that is ethical and consistent with our nation’s values.”

The National Security Commission on Artificial Intelligence has recommended AI training for the Federal workforce, especially those who procure and manage these technologies.

The law will also help ensure the United States maintains a global leadership role in emerging technologies, as competitors such as China continue to invest in AI, its backers say.

“While emerging artificial intelligence technologies offer promising benefits for our Federal workforce, they also come with serious risks. It is more important now than ever to ensure our Federal workforce is prepared to manage these complicated systems,” said Rep. Maloney. “I’m grateful to my colleagues on both sides of the aisle who voted in favor of safeguarding civil rights and civil liberties while ensuring the Federal government can modernize with state-of-the-art technology.”

Read More About
More Topics
Grace Dille
Grace Dille
Grace Dille is MeriTalk's Assistant Managing Editor covering the intersection of government and technology.