The White House announces new AI rules for federal agencies

March 29, 2024
  • The White House Office of Management and Budget (OMB) issued policies to guide the federal use of AI
  • Federal agencies will have to implement AI safeguards and publish their AI tools and use cases
  • The Biden administration will hire 100 AI professionals to promote the trustworthy and safe use of AI

US Vice President Kamala Harris announced a range of new policies regulating how federal agencies use AI in their operations.

The latest policies follow President Biden’s announcement of his Executive Order on AI in October last year. The US government is making efforts to calm fears over how government agencies will use AI technologies, which many view with suspicion.

The policies drafted by the Office of Management and Budget (OMB) require federal agencies to:

  • Address risks from the use of AI
  • Expand transparency of AI use
  • Advance responsible AI innovation
  • Grow the AI workforce
  • Strengthen AI governance

Address risks

Federal agencies will need to identify and manage AI risks to make sure the use of AI doesn’t impact the rights or safety of citizens.

By 1 December 2024, all federal agencies will have to implement “concrete safeguards” that address potential risks like algorithmic discrimination and other impacts on society.

Giving people in an airport the ability to opt out from the use of TSA facial recognition, ensuring human oversight in healthcare, or detecting fraud in government services, will be mandatory when AI is used.

Agencies that are not able to implement these safeguards will have to stop using the respective AI tool.

Expand transparency

The policy mandates that all federal agencies publicly release an inventory of the AI tools they employ. They will have to identify use cases that impact rights or safety and how they’re being addressed.

The draft guidance on how agencies will report on this excludes cases where AI is “used as a component of a National Security System or within the Intelligence Community.”

Even in these excluded cases, agencies will need to report on metrics of the AI systems they use, notify the public of these exempted AI use cases, and justify why they are exempted.

An interesting requirement is that federal agencies will have to “release government-owned AI code, models, and data, where such releases do not pose a risk to the public or government operations.”

Advance responsible AI innovation

The new policies highlight the US government’s commitment to deploying AI technologies in a wide range of applications.

The announcement said that the government would remove unnecessary barriers to allow easier deployment of AI in applications such as addressing the climate crisis, natural disaster response, public healthcare, and public transport.

The OMB’s policies encourage “agencies to responsibly experiment with generative AI,” while following guidance on how to do so safely.

Grow the AI workforce

By Summer 2024, the Biden-Harris Administration has committed to hiring 100 AI professionals as part of its program to ensure the safe and trustworthy deployment of AI in federal agencies.

Big Tech AI companies are engaged in a high-stakes battle for AI talent, and it seems the US government understands that it won’t be easy to attract and retain the right people to fill those 100 spots.

It will be running a career fair next month and has issued guidance on pay and leave flexibilities specifically for AI roles.

To attract workers to these roles, agencies can offer them upfront pay incentives, relocation incentives, flexible and remote working hours, and additional annual leave.

Strengthen AI governance

Federal agencies will need to designate Chief AI Officers to ensure accountability, leadership, and oversight of the use of AI in their operations.

“We have directed all federal agencies to designate a chief AI officer with the experience, expertise, and authority to oversee all — I’m going to emphasize that — all AI technologies used by that agency,” Harris said during her announcement on Wednesday.

They will also have to establish an AI Governance Board to coordinate and govern the use of AI across the agency.

OMB Director Shalanda Young said, “AI presents not only risks, but also tremendous opportunity to improve public services and make progress on societal challenges like addressing climate change, improving public health and advancing equitable economic opportunity.”

The new AI policies aim to help federal agencies unlock that potential while protecting the rights and safety of the people the agencies serve.

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Eugene van der Watt

Eugene comes from an electronic engineering background and loves all things tech. When he takes a break from consuming AI news you'll find him at the snooker table.


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