Peters Convenes Hearing to Examine Federal Government’s Use of AI Technologies

WASHINGTON, D.C. – U.S. Senator Gary Peters (D-MI), Chairman of the Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee, convened a hearing to examine how artificial intelligence (AI) can be used by the federal government to improve efficiency, while making sure that agencies are deploying these systems in a way that respects privacy, civil rights, and civil liberties. Using recent examples, Peters and the witnesses highlighted how deploying AI applications without fully understanding their risks and decision making processes can result in serious consequences for Americans. The hearing was the second in a series that Peters plans to convene on how lawmakers can support the American development of AI to ensure it benefits society, strengthens our nation’s competitiveness on a global stage, and helps industry and government become more effective, while limiting potential harms. 

“The federal government is already using AI in an effort to provide more efficient services, assess potential security threats, and automate routine tasks to enhance the federal workforce,” said Peters in his opening statement. “We should work to ensure that government can adopt and deploy these tools to help improve American lives, but as we do so, we must ensure we are also prepared to address the potential risks and harms AI systems can present.” 

Peters continued: “As we heard in our last hearing, AI algorithms often lack transparency and accountability for how they arrive at certain outcomes. Even the engineers who design them do not always understand how they reach certain conclusions. In government applications, this can present serious risks to Americans who may unknowingly be interacting with an AI, and who may struggle to get answers about why an AI system made a certain determination.”

To watch video of Senator Peters’ opening remarks, click here. For text of Peters’ opening remarks, click here.

To watch video of Senator Peters’ questions, click here.

During the hearing, Peters discussed the need to increase transparency around the government’s use of AI to mitigate the risks associated with these technologies. He also raised concerns about how to ensure personal and sensitive information stored by AI applications is secure and used appropriately to avoid any harms to Americans’ civil rights and civil liberties. Peters highlighted the need to ensure the federal workforce has the skills and training to ensure AI systems are benefitting all Americans. The hearing discussed how agencies can ensure the effectiveness and accuracy of AI systems before deploying them, and whether agencies should be required to follow certain standards as the federal government continues to acquire additional AI tools.

Peters also highlighted a recent announcement that the Biden Administration will be releasing a series of guidelines – as required by a law Peters helped pass in 2021 – on how federal agencies can use AI effectively and responsibly. Peters recently introduced bipartisan legislation to create an AI training program for federal supervisors and management officials. His bipartisan bill to 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 was signed into law last Congress. During today’s hearing, the witnesses affirmed the need to quickly implement these laws.