Update on AI Bills in Congress; House Science Committee AI Initiative Act Added to Defense Policy Bill

There has been a flurry of activity over the last few weeks on a number of AI related pieces of legislation in Congress. The most significant is that the House Science, Space, and Technology Committee’s (HSST) National Artificial Intelligence Initiative Act (HR 6216) was included in the House version of the annual National Defense Authorization Act (or NDAA; aka: the defense policy bill). You’ll recall that HR 6216 was heavily influenced and informed by the CCC’s work and their AI roadmap report (and CRA endorsed the bill). Its inclusion in the House NDAA is a major win for the computing research community.

As of right now, there is no equivalent language in the Senate NDAA, but CRA is working with our allies in the community to make sure it stays in the conference language of any final bill.

However, the downside to this news is the NDAA has an uncertain future right now. Not only is Congress distracted with the negotiations over the latest COVID relief bill, but the House NDAA has drawn a veto threat from the President over stipulations about renaming military bases. This would typically not be an issue, as both the Senate and House NDAA bills passed with very similar base-renaming provisions, and both passed with veto-proof majorities. But Senator Inhofe (R-OK), chair of the Senate Armed Services Committee, and someone who will have significant influence on any conference language, has publicly promised the President he will have these provisions removed. Given that the House Democrats are very much in favor of these provisions, that likely means the bill will not move any time soon.

The other news is the Senate Commerce Committee passed a stand alone AI bill; S. 3891, the Advancing Artificial Intelligence Research Act of 2020. This bill is similar to the House HSST bill, in that it authorizes six national AI research institutes at NSF, and authorizes $50M a year for five years. However it also gives NIST a significant seat in the Federal AI research space by requiring that agency to set up AI standards and establishing a, “national program to advance (AI) research” at the agency. This bill’s future is a little uncertain; with everything going on, there’s no telling if it will make it to the full Senate for a vote. Still, it wouldn’t be a surprise if this gets added on to a piece of moving legislation.

We’re keeping our eyes and ears open on both pieces of legislation and will update as news becomes available, so please check back.

Update on AI Bills in Congress; House Science Committee AI Initiative Act Added to Defense Policy Bill