Federal workforce AI training bill lands on president’s desk

President Joe Biden signs a bill into law in the Oval Office of the White House in Washington, DC. (Photo by Drew Angerer/Getty Images)

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A bill that would require federal officials involved with procuring artificial intelligence to receive training on the emerging technology’s capabilities and risks has reached President Biden’s desk, after passing the House on Thursday.

If the AI Training for the Acquisition Workforce Act is signed into law, the Office of Management and Budget would have one year to establish a 10-year training program within executive agencies managing AI programs and logistics.

While Biden hasn’t indicated whether he’ll sign the bill, his administration has implemented key provisions of the National AI Initiative Act and the executive order on trustworthy AI, enacted by the Trump administration, in an effort to maintain U.S. global leadership in the technology and oppose China.

“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,” said Sen. Gary Peters, D-Mich., who authored the legislation with Sen. Rob Portman, R-Ohio, in a statement. “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 bill wouldn’t fund the program but directs OMB to work with the General Services Administration to develop a curriculum covering the science behind AI, how it works, basic technological features, benefits for agencies, bias and privacy risks, trustworthy AI, and trends in national security and innovation. Technologists; academics; and public, private and nonprofit sector experts would train AI program managers, research and development employees, procurement and contracting officials, and logistics and cost estimation personnel.

OMB would need to update the program at least every two years to address new technology developments, measure participation and solicit feedback.

The National Security Commission on AI raised the need to train federal officials procuring the technology, in particular, on the harms it poses to citizens and national security if used improperly.

“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,” Portman said in a statement.

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Acquisition, artificial intelligence (AI), General Services Administration (GSA), Joe Biden, National Security Commission on Artificial Intelligence, Office of Management and Budget (OMB), training, trustworthy AI
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