House Bill Would Establish National Security Commission on Artificial Intelligence

by McDonnell Boehnen Hulbert & Berghoff LLP
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On March 20, 2018, Rep. Elise Stefanik (R-NY) introduced a bill (H.R. 5356) in the United States House of Representatives in an effort to establish a new National Security Commission on Artificial Intelligence.  The Commission itself would be considered an independent establishment in the Executive Branch under 5 U.S.C. § 104.

The bill, entitled the National Security Commission Artificial Intelligence Act of 2018, directs the Commission to review advances in "artificial intelligence, related machine learning developments, and associated technologies."  Specifically, the Commission will consider how to advance such technologies so as to "comprehensively address the national security needs of the Nation, including economic risk, and any other needs of the Department of Defense or the common defense of the Nation."

Various officials, including the Secretary of Defense, the respective Chairpersons of the Committees on Armed Services of the House and Senate, as well as the ranking minority members of those Committees would be responsible for selecting the Commission's eleven appointed members.  Under the language of the bill, the Commission is tasked to provide an initial report no less than 180 days from enactment of the Act and a comprehensive report no later than one year from enactment.  The reports are to be submitted to the President and Congress and will include subject matter such as:

(A) the competitiveness of the United States in artificial intelligence, machine learning, and other associated technologies, including matters related to national security, economic security, public-private partnerships, and investments;

(B) means and methods for the United States to maintain a technological advantage in artificial intelligence, machine learning, and other associated technologies, including quantum computing and high performance computing;

(C) developments and trends in international cooperation and competitiveness, including foreign investments in artificial intelligence, machine learning, and computer science fields;

(D) means by which to foster greater emphasis and investments in basic and advanced research to stimulate private, public, academic and combined initiatives in artificial intelligence, machine learning, and other associated technologies, including quantum computing and high performance computing;

(E) workforce and education incentives to attract and recruit leading talent in artificial intelligence and machine learning, including science, technology, engineering, and math programs;

(F) risks associated with United States and foreign country advances in military employment of artificial intelligence and machine learning, including under the international law of armed conflict, international humanitarian law, and escalation dynamics;

(G) associated ethical considerations related to artificial intelligence and machine learning as it will be used for future applications;

(H) means to establish data standards and provide incentives for the sharing of open training data within related data-driven industries;

(I) development of privacy- and security-protecting measures for data in artificial intelligence, machine learning, and associated technologies; and

(J) any other matters the Commission deems relevant to the common defense of the Nation.

The bill appropriates up to $10 million from the Department of Defense budget to fund the Commissions activities.  Upon introduction, the bill was referred to the Committee on Armed Services, as well as the Committees on Education and the Workforce, Foreign Affairs, Science, Space, and Technology, and Energy and Commerce for a period of consideration and comment.

The bill defines "artificial intelligence" in very similar (and, in some cases, identical) terms as other pieces of proposed House and Senate AI legislation, namely:

(1) Any artificial system that performs tasks under varying and unpredictable circumstances without significant human oversight, or that can learn from experience and improve performance when exposed to data sets.

(2) An artificial system developed in computer software, physical hardware, or other context that solves tasks requiring human-like perception, cognition, planning, learning, communication, or physical action.

(3) An artificial system designed to think or act like a human, including cognitive architectures and neural networks.

(4) A set of techniques, including machine learning, that is designed to approximate a cognitive task.

(5) An artificial system designed to act rationally, including an intelligent software agent or embodied robot that achieves goals using perception, planning, reasoning, learning, communicating, decision making, and acting.

Recent legislative activity in this technology area of seems to suggest increasing public interest in artificial intelligence and its potential for positive and negative effects on society.  Time will tell whether H.R. 5356 -- and its national security focus -- will enjoy increased traction as the bill is considered, as compared to similar AI legislation proposed under the Secretaries of Commerce (H.R. 4625 and S. 2217) and Labor (H.R. 4829).

For additional information regarding this topic, please see:

H.R.5356 – National Security Commission Artificial Intelligence Act of 2018
GOP rep introduces bill to address national security risks of artificial intelligence (The Hill, March 21, 2018)
House lawmaker pitches new AI commission to brief Trump (Washington Examiner, March 21, 2018)
Multiple Artificial Intelligence Bills Introduced in House and Senate (Patent Docs, February 15, 2018)

DISCLAIMER: Because of the generality of this update, the information provided herein may not be applicable in all situations and should not be acted upon without specific legal advice based on particular situations.

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