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The National Security Commission on Artificial Intelligence (NSCAI) Releases Its First Quarter Recommendations

The National Security Commission on Artificial Intelligence (NSCAI) released its first quarter recommendations to maintain U.S. leadership in the development and adoption of artificial intelligence (AI).  Established in the 2019 National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA), NSCAI is an independent Commission; with members representing industry, academia, and civil society organizations; that seeks to develop policy recommendations that advance the development of AI and ensure that it strengthens the American workforce, industry, innovation, values, and national security.  HFES advocated for NSCAI’s creation in the FY 2019 NDAA, and has engaged with Congress and the federal agencies on a number of occasions regarding important HF/E issues that must be addressed in AI development.

These recommendations build on a previous interim report released in November 2019, where NSCAI assessed the national security landscape and global competition around AI.  The Commission asserted that the future of U.S. national security and the economy depends on U.S. success in winning the AI race.  The interim report described the Commission’s seven guiding principles when evaluating future recommendations and policies:

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“1. Global leadership in AI technology is a national security priority.

  1. Adopting AI for defense and security purposes is an urgent national imperative.
  2. Private sector leaders and government officials must build a shared sense of responsibility for the welfare and security of the American people.
  3. People are still essential. Talent remains the most important driver of progress in all facets of AI.
  4. The power of free inquiry must be preserved.
  5. Ethic and strategic necessity are compatible with one another.
  6. The American way of AI must reflect American values—includes having the rule of law at its core.”

NSCAI released its first quarter recommendations in April, as Congress is examining the President’s FY 2021 budget request and crafting legislation such as the annual appropriations bills and the FY 2021 NDAA.  NSCAI’s first quarter recommendations include:

  • Increase AI R&D Investments: The commission advocates for the federal government to double funding for AI R&D in fiscal year (FY) 2021, from $1 billion to $2 billion, in key areas such as human-AI interactions to expand AI research efforts at national laboratories and research centers, and bolster future AI applications. The commission also recommends launching a pilot program to establish a National AI Research Resource (NAIRR), in order to expand public access to large, curated data sets.
  • Accelerate AI Application in the Department of Defense: NSCAI recommends that DOD leadership establish mechanisms, such as a Steering Committee on Emerging Technology, to assess novel emerging technology threats and ensure that DOD is able to overcome barriers to the strategic adoption of AI and other emerging technologies. The Commission also recommends that the recently established Joint Artificial Intelligence Center (JAIC) report directly to the Secretary.
  • Strengthen the AI Workforce: This includes recommendations to revolutionize workforce hiring practices by targeting and identifying internal talent, establishing AI-literacy courses for human resources (HR) professionals, conducting portfolio-based rather than resume-based hiring, expanding the Cyber Excepted Service (CES), and mandating AI training, among other recommendations.
  • Promote U.S. Leadership in AI Hardware & 5G: NSCAI advocates for the implementation of portfolio-based approaches to advance U.S. leadership in AI and lay the groundwork for long-term AI resource and R&D investment in areas that enable AI technologies, such as microelectronics programs and fifth-generation (5G) wireless technologies and networks. This includes expanding AI-enabling microelectronics programs, developing a national microelectronics strategy, and enacting policies and programs to advance critical technical areas of 5G such as spectrum sharing.
  • Improve AI Cooperation Among Key Allies and Partners: NSCAI proposes that the federal government appoint a national security point of contact to deepen AI collaborations with like-minded allies and partners in order to strengthen AI-enabled warfighting, wargaming, and intelligence efforts.
  • Advance Ethical and Responsible AI: Acknowledging DOD’s adoption of the Defense Innovation Board’s recommended AI principles, the Commission calls for additional policies to promote the ethical and responsible use of AI by integrating ethical and responsible AI training (including understanding of AI Bias) in courses and establishing a body of experts to brief the federal government on emerging ethical issues and trends pertaining to AI.
  • An additional classified section with threat analysis and recommended actions was not included in the public report.

NSCAI’s report contains language for a number of legislative proposals capturing its first quarter recommendations for the NDAA, as well as recommendations for funding priorities in the FY 2021 appropriations bills.  The Commission’s establishment and its work have been strongly supported by key members on the House Armed Services Committee (HASC), such as Intelligence and Emerging Threats and Capabilities Subcommittee Chairman Jim Langevin (D-RI) and Ranking Member Elise Stefanik (R-NY). It is expected that Congress will carefully consider these proposals as it prepares to work on the FY 2021 NDAA.

NSCAI will continue to release reports with recommendations as part of a framework to further AI research and development, applications, and stewardship in a dynamic technology and national security environment.  The Commission notes that while the rapidly evolving threats and technology require it to remain flexible, its guiding principles that frame the recommendations have remained constant.  For example, NSCAI notes that efforts to respond to the COVID-19 pandemic, including modeling and vaccine development, demonstrate the potential that AI can offer in every aspect of U.S. economic prosperity and national security.