Two senators introduced a bill this week that would address artificial intelligence (AI) workforce development for the Department of Defense (DoD) and implement several recommendations from the National Security Commission on Artificial Intelligence (NSCAI).

The Artificial Intelligence for the Armed Forces Act would require the director of DoD’s Joint Artificial Intelligence Center (JAIC) to have the rank of lieutenant general or Navy vice admiral, and to report directly to the Secretary of Defense.

JAIC’s first director – Lt. Gen. John “Jack” Shanahan – stepped down earlier this month. In one of his final addresses before leaving the position, Gen. Shanahan emphasized AI training and workforce development as a priority for the organization.

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“We must make sure DoD is using the tools at their disposal to recruit the next generation of AI professionals and give them the authority they need to hire experts in the field,” said Sen. Martin Heinrich, D-N.M., who introduced the bill with his co-founder of the Senate AI Caucus, Sen. Rob Portman, R-Ohio.

According to a press release from the senators, the bill:


  • “Requires the Secretary of Defense to develop a training and certification program to better enable DoD’s human resources workforce to bring AI and cyber professionals into the Department;
  • Requires the Secretary of Defense to issue guidance on how the Department can better use existing direct hire authority to onboard AI professionals;
  • Provides officers with a grade of major general or above with authority to waive GS qualification standards for applicants with exceptional AI skills; and
  • Modifies the Armed Services Vocational Aptitude test to add a computational assessment to identify applicants with skills in AI.”

“The National Security Commission on AI has done great work researching how to make the United States more competitive and capable when it comes to AI. But their work is only half the battle,” said Portman, referencing the NSCAI’s work on the topic. “This bipartisan legislation builds on the Commission’s efforts to strengthen the AI capabilities of our military by enabling the increased hiring of AI and cyber professionals.”

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