President Trump’s executive order on artificial intelligence (AI) announced by the White House today focuses on prioritizing Federal government investments in AI-driven projects, and development by Federal agencies of research and development budgets for AI that will support their core missions.

The text of the executive order has not yet been released, but President Trump’s announcement late this afternoon of the order launching the “American AI Initiative” asserts that the U.S. leads the world in AI currently, and that maintaining that position “is of paramount importance to maintaining the economic and national security of the United States.”

“However, as the pace of AI innovation increases around the world, we cannot sit idly by and presume that our leadership is guaranteed,” the White House said. “We must ensure that advances in AI remain fueled by American ingenuity, reflect American values, and are applied for the benefit of the American people.”

The initiative’s major themes include:

Maintaining a “long-term emphasis on high-reward, fundamental R&D in AI by directing Federal agencies to prioritize AI investments in their R&D missions,” and prioritizing Federal AI spending on “cutting-edge ideas that can directly benefit the American people”;

Directing Federal agencies “to make Federal data, models, and computing resources more available to America’s AI R&D experts, researchers, and industries to foster public trust and increase the value of these resources to AI R&D experts, while maintaining the safety, security, civil liberties, privacy, and confidentiality protections we all expect,” the White House said. Spreading those Federal resources will drive tech breakthroughs, promote scientific discovery, economic competitiveness, and national security, and help implement the OPEN Government Data Act;

Directing Federal agencies to establish “guidance for AI development and use across different types of technology and industrial sectors” in order to foster public trust in AI systems and help Federal regulatory agencies “develop and maintain approaches for the safe and trustworthy creation and adoption of new AI technologies.” In particular, the National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST) will be tasked with developing “appropriate technical standards for reliable, robust, trustworthy, secure, portable, and interoperable AI systems,” the White House said.

Calling on Federal agencies to prioritize “fellowship and training programs to help American workers gain AI-relevant skills through apprenticeships, skills programs, fellowships, and education in computer science and other growing Science, Technology, Engineering, and Math (STEM) fields.”  Doing so, the White House said, will “help educate the AI R&D workforce our Nation needs to create and embrace new AI technologies”; and

Directing Federal agencies “to develop and implement an action plan to protect the advantage of the United States in AI and technology critical to United States national and economic security interests against strategic competitors and foreign adversaries.”

Michael Kratsios, deputy U.S. Chief Technology Officer and Deputy Assistant to the President at the White House’s Office of Science Technology Policy (OSTP), previewed the executive order earlier today in Wired magazine and elaborated on some details that weren’t as spelled out in the document issued by the White House today.

Among those, he said OSTP and the White House’s Domestic Policy Council and National Economic Council “will work with regulatory agencies and other stakeholders to craft guidance for AI technologies that will promote innovation while respecting privacy, civil liberties, and American values.”

Kratsios also emphasized that strong AI development will protect the U.S.’s “advantage from adversarial nations for the security of our economy and our nation.”

“Ultimately, we will win the race for AI, and we will do it without compromising our American values,” he said. “The United States has long been a champion of freedom, human rights, the rule of law, privacy, free and open markets, respect for intellectual property, and the opportunity to pursue the American dream. The American AI Initiative is rooted in the fundamental principle that in the United States, AI should never be used at the expense of our civil liberties and our freedoms.”

President Trump in his State of the Union address last week said the Federal government needs to invest in “cutting edge industries,” which Kratsios later said include AI, quantum computing, and 5G wireless services.

Commenting on the White House’s announcement of the executive order, Dmitri Alperovitch, chief technology officer at cybersecurity technologies provider CrowdStrike, said in a statement, “Today, AI is at the center of most major technological advances in areas as varied as cybersecurity, self-driving cars or development of cancer treatments. In cybersecurity, for example, these technological advances include enabling the defenders to recognize and stop never-before-seen attacks and being faster in detecting and responding to attacks. It is vital for prosperity and security that the US keeps its leadership position in development and implementation of AI technologies. Government leadership and funding on this topic is crucial.”

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John Curran
John Curran
John Curran is MeriTalk's Managing Editor covering the intersection of government and technology.