The National Security Commission on Artificial Intelligence (NSCAI) is urging Congress to retain provisions in the final version of the next defense policy bill to establish a new committee with Pentagon and Intelligence Community officials to guide AI development priorities, as well as bolstering resources for AI research at universities. 

NSCAI is also set to deliver its next round of policy recommendations in October, with plans to deliver its final report to Congress and the White House in March 2021.

Low angled view of the U.S. Capitol East Facade Front in Washington, D.C.

 “In our judgment, America needs to lead the world in the development of AI. In that regard, however, we are still not where we need to be as a government, as a partner with the private sector, or as a partner with our allies and like-minded nations in the world,” several NSCAI members wrote in joint testimony to the House Subcommittee on Intelligence and Emerging Threats and Capabilities. “We need a fully funded and fully supported strategy to win the AI competition. And we need to build that strategy as just one component of an even more ambitious strategy for winning a broader technology competition that includes several emerging technologies.”

Both the House and Senate versions of the fiscal year 2021 National Defense Authorization Act contain several provisions based on NSCAI’s 80 recommendations to date, with lawmakers expected to begin working on the final version of the bill after the Nov. 3 election.

NSCAI members told the House panel they hope to see the NDAA include a directive to establish a senior-level Steering Committee on Emerging Technology that would include representatives from both DoD and the IC.

“A central goal of our recommendation is to create a leadership mechanism that bridges DoD and the IC. This would better integrate intelligence analysis related to emerging technologies with defense capability development. And it would help ensure that DoD and the IC have a shared vision of national security needs and coherent, complementary investment strategies,” the NSCAI members wrote.

The steering committee would be tasked with focusing concept and capability development around emerging threats and work to “guide defense investments to ensure strategic advantage against near-peer competitors.”

The commission also wants to see a House NDAA provision retained that would create a task force to establish a new National AI Research Resource for universities. 

“We want to emphasize the importance of creating a National AI Research Resource. There is a growing divide in AI research between “haves” in the private sector and “have nots” in academia. Much of today’s AI research depends on access to resource-intensive computation and large, curated data sets. These are held primarily in companies. We fear that this growing gap will degrade research and training at our universities,” the NSCAI members wrote. 

NSCAI also urged Congress to retain a requirement for new microelectronics strategy, with the group noting the House’s provision to study the feasibility of creating a national laboratory focused on microelectronics.

“Recent advances in AI have depended heavily on advances in available computing power. To preserve U.S. global leadership in AI, we need to preserve leadership in the underlying microelectronics,” the commission members wrote.