Peters and Portman Bill to Help Improve Federal Workforce’s Understanding of Artificial Intelligence Signed Into Law

WASHINGTON, D.C. – Legislation authored by U.S. Senators Gary Peters (D-MI) and Rob Portman (R-OH), Chairman and Ranking Member of the Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee, that will help bolster the federal workforce’s understanding of artificial intelligence (AI) has been signed into law. The law will create a training program to help federal employees responsible for purchasing and managing AI technologies better understand the capabilities and risks they pose to the American people. It will also help ensure the United States maintains a global leadership role in rapidly developing technologies as foreign competitors like the Chinese government continue to prioritize investments in AI technologies. The law was led through the House by U.S. Representative Carolyn B. Maloney (D-NY-12), Chairwoman of the Committee on Oversight and Reform.

“If used improperly, artificial intelligence could present a serious threat to the rights and liberties of Michiganders and people across the country. That is why the federal workforce must better understand how these technologies could impact the safety, security, and freedoms of all Americans,” said Senator Peters. “Now that this commonsense, bipartisan legislation has been signed into law, federal workers will be better prepared to use this technology in a way that is ethical and consistent with our nation’s values.”

“When the government purchases AI to improve government functions, we need to know that the AI we buy actually works and meets standards for ethics and safety,” said Senator Portman. “That’s why I’m pleased the bipartisan AI Training Act has been signed into law. This law will train our procurement professionals about the ins and outs of AI so they can discern which AI systems are useful to the government and which are not.”

“While emerging artificial intelligence technologies offer promising benefits for our federal workforce, they also come with serious risks.  It is more important now than ever to ensure our federal workforce is prepared to manage these complicated systems,” said Rep. Maloney. “I’m grateful to my colleagues on both sides of the aisle who voted in favor of safeguarding civil rights and civil liberties while ensuring the federal government can modernize with state-of-the-art technology.”

The National Security Commission on Artificial Intelligence has raised the need to train the federal workforce on AI, especially those who procure and manage these technologies. While there are clear benefits to using AI, experts remain concerned that if used improperly, this technology could harm U.S. citizens and compromise national security. The Artificial Intelligence Training for the Acquisition Workforce Act will help train federal employees who purchase and manage AI technology for government agencies to ensure it is used appropriately.

This law requires the Director of the Office of Management and Budget (OMB) to provide and regularly update an AI training program for federal employees who manage and purchase this technology for the federal government. The training aims to help federal employees better understand the benefits of AI, as well as the ethical and national security risks posed by these technologies. The law also encourages the OMB Director to work with scholars and experts from the public and private sectors to create the training. It will also ensure that OMB is tracking the participation and feedback of participants to identify possible ways to improve the training.

The law builds on Peters and Portman’s efforts to ensure AI is used safely and ethically. The senators’ bipartisan legislation to secure and protect information handled by federal contractors using artificial intelligence (AI) technology, such as biometric data from facial recognition scans, has advanced in the Senate. A Portman-Peters provision to ensure that the use of AI across the federal government is effective, ethical, and accountable by providing resources and guidance to federal agencies was signed into law as a part of last year’s government funding bill.