The National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA) for fiscal year 2021 passed with an innovative addition: the National Artificial Intelligence Initiative Act. The legislation, based on House bill HR 6216, “establishes a framework for coordinating AI research and policy across the federal government and a national network of AI research institutes.”
The newly formed National Artificial Intelligence Initiative Office will be responsible for overseeing “federal AI research and policymaking across government, the private sector, academia, nonprofits and state governments.” This “central hub” will oversee a national AI strategy; other federal foundations and departments will oversee AI initiatives in their specialties. These entities include the National Science Foundation (NSF), Department of Energy (DOE), Department of Commerce [including both the National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST) and National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA)], and Department of Defense (DOD).
It will be the NSF responsible for establishing and maintaining the research institutes outside the federal government, codifying and expanding its National Artificial Intelligence Research Institutes (NAIRI) program. These institutes will represent both academia and industry across a wide variety of fields of study. In order to support innovation at these institutions and across government agencies, the DOE and NIST will focus on improving the availability of datasets essential for machine learning as well as “collaborative frameworks, standards, guidelines” for this type of innovation.
Impacting AI Innovation
The National Artificial Intelligence Initiative Act is designed to maintain the United States’ position as a global leader in AI. The Act, through the continued development of AI research institutes, is expanding the number of industries and fields of study benefiting from artificial intelligence. Just as importantly, the legislation gives academic researchers in these fields access to government and corporate datasets via cloud computing. This public-private partnership aims to help researchers use cloud-based datasets efficiently and effectively to move AI innovation forward at a reduced cost.