The Senate voted on Dec. 18 to approve the Artificial Intelligence Training for the Acquisition Workforce Act, legislation that aims to improve the Federal workforce’s understanding of AI and ensure its ethical and safe use.

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

The legislation would require the director of the Office of Management and Budget to provide and regularly update the AI training program. Additionally, the bill would help ensure the United States maintains a global leadership role in emerging technologies.

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“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 Senate passed the AI Training Act. This bipartisan legislation 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.”

“In order to use artificial intelligence properly and in a way that ensures our nation can compete with our foreign adversaries – Federal workers need to understand the technical and ethical implications of these technologies for the safety, security, and freedoms of Americans,” added Sen. Peters. “This important bill will help our government better understand artificial intelligence and ensure we are using it in a manner that is consistent with American values and our democracy.”

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

The next step for the legislation is the House of Representatives, where it does not appear that a companion bill has been filed.

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Grace Dille
Grace Dille
Grace Dille is a MeriTalk Staff Reporter covering the intersection of government and technology.
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