The National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST) announced July 2 that it is seeking public comment on a draft plan titled “U.S. Leadership in AI: Plan for Federal Engagement in Developing Technical Standards and Related Tools.”

The document is a plan for “Federal government engagement in advancing artificial intelligence (AI) standards for U.S. economic and national security needs.” Interested parties can submit comments through July 19, 2019. The final draft of the plan is due to the White House on August 10, 2019.

According to a press release from NIST, the draft plan offers up four recommendations: “bolster AI standards-related knowledge, leadership, and coordination among federal agencies; promote focused research on the ‘trustworthiness’ of AI; support and expand public-private partnerships; and engage with international parties.”

Under Secretary of Commerce for Standards and Technology and NIST Director Walter G. Copan said “AI is already transforming so many aspects of our lives and has the potential to do much more. The Federal government has an important role to play, in partnership with industry and academia, to ensure that the U.S. maintains its leadership in AI. We want to make the most of this technology, while ensuring safety, privacy, and security.”

The plan, which is being developed in response to a February 2019 Executive Order that directed agencies to take steps to ensure that the U.S. maintains its global leadership position in AI, includes four potential levels of how the Federal government can engage: “monitoring, participating in, influencing or leading standards efforts.” It emphasizes that the Federal government should focus on efforts that are “inclusive and accessible, open and transparent, consensus-based, globally relevant and nondiscriminatory, and that use multiple approaches.”

The current draft of the plan highlights issues regarding the trustworthiness of AI, including accuracy, explainability, resiliency, safety, security and the ability to protect privacy. It further says that increasing trust in AI is “a key element in accelerating adoption of AI technologies for economic growth and future innovations that can benefit society.”

The draft calls for a set of standards to help facilitate the advancement of AI. “AI standards that articulate requirements, specifications, guidelines, or characteristics can help to ensure that AI technologies and systems meet critical objectives for functionality, interoperability, and trustworthiness, and perform accurately, reliably and safely,” the plan says. NIST provides an overview of the current state of AI standards and provides categories in which technical standards are needed, including data, metrics, safety, and trustworthiness.

The plan lays out several practical steps that agencies can take to engage in standards, including identifying how AI technologies can be used to further an agency’s mission, identifying relevant existing standards and using them, or engaging in the development of appropriate standards.

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Kate Polit
Kate Polit
Kate Polit is MeriTalk's Assistant Copy & Production Editor covering the intersection of government and technology.