Bipartisan legislation introduced last week directs the Department of Defense (DoD) to make its datasets publicly and easily accessible via a strategic pilot program in order to advance software and artificial intelligence (AI) capabilities beyond the Pentagon.

The Advancing American AI Innovation Act introduced by Sens. Jacky Rosen, D-Nev., and Rob Portman, R-Ohio, would establish data libraries relevant to AI software and technology development. Opening up those libraries beyond DoD will help ensure that private companies have access to accurate data so they can better meet military and broader government needs.

Recommendations from the National Security Commission on AI (NSCAI) – an independent source that advises Congress and the president on AI technology – influenced the creation of this bill. The NSCAI reported that government technologists are regularly denied access to software engineering tools and capabilities. Enabling increased access to DoD data will help the public and private sectors synchronize their AI-driven resources that could impact the military, transportation, health care, manufacturing, national security policy, and other realms.

“The [Federal] digital workforce must gain enterprise-level technology assets that match those found in the private sector,” the NSCAI says, with capabilities including:

  • Software engineering tools;
  • Access to software libraries;
  • Vetted open-source support;
  • Curated data sets; and
  • Infrastructure for large-scale collaboration.

“The field of [AI] and the role it plays in our nation’s security are rapidly changing and expanding. These data libraries will provide an entire sector of small startups and existing data companies with the tools to create AI models that are in line with the capabilities and needs of the DoD,” Sen. Rosen said in a press release. “This bipartisan legislation will bolster public-private partnerships in AI and ensure that our nation is able to make the best use of rapidly evolving AI capabilities.”

“The [U.S.] cannot take its [AI] leadership for granted. We must fully utilize the public [and] private sector to synchronize and develop our AI capabilities across [various] spaces. I believe the Advancing American AI Innovation Act is a step in the right direction in facilitating this critical public-private partnership,” said Sen. Portman.

The legislation also comes as former and current Pentagon officials, as well as AI experts, have been vocal about China’s unsettling potential to outpace the U.S. in AI deployments in the not-so-distant future. In a recent DoD report, the agency highlighted China’s prioritization and speedy production of AI-enabled technologies.

Sen. Rosen has previously backed efforts to strengthen AI capabilities in the United States. She helped introduce bipartisan legislation to create a U.S.-Israel AI Research and Development Center to further bilateral cooperation in AI and contribute to the advancement of this critical field.

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Lisbeth Perez
Lisbeth Perez
Lisbeth Perez is a MeriTalk Senior Technology Reporter covering the intersection of government and technology.