AI, NLG, and Machine Learning

AI Policy and the National Security Commission on Artificial Intelligence

As an independent commission charged with spearheading the advancement of artificial intelligence and machine learning technologies to support the national security and defense of the United States, the National Security Commission on Artificial Intelligence (NSCAI) is a highly important but controversial entity.

By Adam Westin
August 20, 2020

The National Security Commission on Artificial Intelligence (NSCAI) was established in August 2018 by the John S. McCain National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA).

The scope of the commission includes a variety of issues related to the implications and uses of artificial intelligence (AI) and machine learning for national security and defense, including US competitiveness and leadership, research and development, ethics, and data standards. Appointed by members of Congress, the Secretary of Defense, and the Secretary of Commerce, the 15 commissioners are organized into seven different focuses, including “Invest in AI Research Development & Software” and “Apply AI to National Security Missions,” among others. The commission’s staff has held several meetings with individuals and organizations interested in AI and national security issues, including experts from industry, government, academia, and nonprofits.

Interestingly, the NSCAI is a temporary organization and is scheduled to end on October 1, 2021. Due to the urgency of AI issues in national security, the commissioners agreed to submit quarterly recommendations to Congress.

The latest NSCAI report

In March 2020, the NSCAI issued its first quarterly report of the year. The most notable recommendation was to double the amount of money spent on artificial intelligence outside the U.S. Department of Defense (DoD). As part of this recommendation, it also urged the government to launch a task force study and pilot program to establish a National AI Research Resource to democratize AI. Legislation promoting the creation of the National AI Research Resource Task Force Act, which aims to spur and democratize AI-centered studies and applications by developing a national asset for scientists and students to use, launched in June 2020 and has garnered support from more than 20 major tech companies and universities.

Other key recommendations in the report include:

  • Increase AI R&D investments.
  • Accelerate AI application in the DoD.
  • Establish a Steering Committee on Emerging Technology that would assess novel threats related to emerging technologies and would drive technology adoption and application.
  • Strengthen the AI workforce with initiatives, such as establishing AI literacy courses for human resources (HR) professionals, mandating AI training, incentivizing self-development AI courses, and hiring professors part time in government research labs.
  • Promote US leadership in AI hardware and 5G to ensure that the United States remains a front-runner in the field of cutting-edge microelectronics.
  • Improve AI cooperation among key allies and partners by establishing a National Security Point of Contact for AI at a senior level.
  • Advance ethical and responsible AI with training that adheres to commonly agreed-upon AI principles.
  • The ultimate role of the National Security Commission on Artificial Intelligence is to elevate awareness and inform better legislation. This mandate includes the task of helping the DoD better understand and prepare for a world where AI might impact national security in unexpected ways. It will be interesting to see whether its recommendations are rolled into congressional budgets as time goes on and to learn how they will impact the field of AI.