Artificial intelligence will have immense implications for national and international security, and AI’s potential applications for defense and intelligence have been identified by the federal government as a major priority.
There are, however, significant bureaucratic and technical challenges to the adoption and scaling of AI across U.S. defense and intelligence organizations. Moreover, other nations—particularly China and Russia—are also investing in military AI applications. As the strategic competition intensifies, the pressure to deploy untested and poorly understood systems to gain competitive advantage could lead to accidents, failures, and unintended escalation.
The Bipartisan Policy Center and Georgetown University’s Center for Security and Emerging Technology (CSET), in consultation with Reps. Robin Kelly (D-IL) and Will Hurd (R-TX), has worked with government officials, industry representatives, civil society advocates, and academics to better understand the major AI-related national and economic security issues the country faces. This paper hopes to shed more clarity on these challenges and provide actionable policy recommendations, to help guide a U.S. national strategy for AI. BPC’s effort is primarily designed to complement the work done by the Obama and Trump administrations, including President Barack Obama’s 2016 The National Artificial Intelligence Research and Development Strategic Plan,1 President Donald Trump’s Executive Order 13859, announcing the American AI Initiative,2 and the Office of Management and Budget’s subsequent Guidance for Regulation of Artificial Intelligence Applications. The effort is also designed to further advance work done by Kelly and Hurd in their 2018 Committee on Oversight and Government Reform (Information Technology Subcommittee) white paper Rise of the Machines: Artificial Intelligence and its Growing Impact on U.S. Policy.3 Our goal through this effort is to provide the legislative branch with potential actions it can take to advance AI building on the work being done by the Trump administration.
- Processes to develop and deploy defense and intelligence applications of AI systems must focus on human-machine teaming, trustworthiness, and implementing the Defense Department’s Ethical Principles for AI.
- The United States must work closely with allies and partners, while also seeking opportunities to cooperate selectively and pragmatically with competitors such as Russia and China.
- The federal government should develop and refine metrics to evaluate foreign countries’ AI sectors from both capabilities-based and conditions-based perspectives.
- The federal government should invest in research, development, testing, and standardization in order to build and deploy more trustworthy cutting-edge AI systems.
- Export and investment controls must be carefully targeted and strictly enforced in order to prevent the transfer of sensitive AI technologies to China.
- Executive Office of the President. The National Artificial Intelligence Research and Development Strategic Plan, October 2016. https://www.nitrd.gov/pubs/national_ai_rd_strategic_plan.pdf
- Executive Office of the President. Executive Order 13859 Maintaining American Leadership in Artificial Intelligence, Pub. L. No. 2019–02544, 84 FR 3967 E.O. 12859 3967 (2019). https://www.federalregister.gov/d/2019-02544.
- Vought, Russell T., Memorandum for the Heads of Executive Departments and Agencies: Guidance for Regulation of Artificial Intelligence Application, January 7, 2020, https://www.whitehouse.gov/wp-content/uploads/2020/01/Draft-OMB-Memo-on-Regulation-of-AI-1-7-19.pdf.