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Application of artificial intelligence in the federal government

by Josh Ladick, GSA Focus
Article ImageThe federal government plays a fundamental role in the emergence of artificial intelligence technologies. Their contribution to AI research and development paved the way for its growth across all US regions. The government’s initiatives focus on leveraging AI to enhance security measures and improve quality of life. Without their involvement, we will probably not see large technology corporations adopting innovative technology the same way we utilize AI today.

Current state of AI policy in the US government

The first step that the administration had taken to promote federal funding and resources toward AI research and development established in February 2019. President Donald J. Trump introduced the American Artificial Intelligence Initiative to maintain the continued support for AI innovation. Executive Order 13859 detailed the following key policies:

  1. Invest in AI Research and Development

A portion of the federal budget gets allocated to AI research and development within business industries, academia, and international partners. The details about the initiative’s progress are available on the 2019 AI R&D strategic plan of the administration. President Trump also proposed to double the intended budget for non-defense AI research for the fiscal year 2021.

  1. Unleash AI Resources

To further these initiatives, you can find the framework for managing data’s operational principles on the White House Office of Management and Budget data strategy in 2019. Their goal is to lead various federal agencies to new opportunities, resources, and frameworks that promote the utilization of AI technology.

  1. Remove Barriers to AI Innovation

To welcome AI innovation, the government established the United States AI Regulatory Principles. This innovation aims to encourage AI technologies’ development and deployment across the federal government while adhering to their standards.

  1. Promote an International Environment Supportive of American AI Innovation

In 2019, the government coordinated with the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD) to develop their agreement on fundamental principles for responsible AI stewardship. This partnership emphasizes the government’s efforts to establish strong ties with international entities towards AI innovation.

  1. Embrace Trustworthy AI for Government Services and Missions

It is part of the plans of the government to implement AI in their services and future endeavors. Cutting-edge AI technologies aim to streamline government services while upholding privacy and civil liberty.

  1. Train an AI-Ready Workforce

With the focus of increasing the American workforce’s literacy in artificial intelligence, the government is establishing apprenticeships and skills training programs focused on AI. Recently, the US National Science Foundation launched the National AI Research Institute program to assist AI research and promote many opportunities in the field.

Trump’s successor, President Biden, has yet to announce anything explicit about establishing AI strategies. However, experts in the AI field are hopeful to hear from him in the future. The previous administration placed unwavering efforts in AI research for military purposes and strengthened defense against China.

In contrast, President Biden will likely allocate the budget for non-defense-related AI research. Additionally, trends and policy practices suggest President Biden will ameliorate several standards and policies surrounding AI implementation across government agencies.

Where do we go from here?

The Trump administration had already pointed us in the right direction when he signed Executive Order 13859. Launching the initiatives for AI innovation strengthened research and development while implementing U.S.-led international AI standards. So, what role does the workforce play in the execution of the program?

Here are some ways we can help enact the ideals of the federal government focused on artificial intelligence:

Focus on building AI-literacy in American workers

If everyone remains uneducated about artificial intelligence, it will be difficult to integrate this technology across the workflow. AI technologies may be relatively new, as it remains confined to a handful of tech companies’ automated processes. We can only take advantage of its maximum potential if we take time to understand it.

The effort starts in educational institutions as they increase AI excellence and professionals who are well-versed in the industry. AI literacy is the key to deploying innovative technologies to resolving pressing sociological issues like hunger, poverty, and healthcare.

Startups need to swarm and work closely with federal AI strategy

AI excellence would not be possible through the efforts of the government alone. It is integral that the up-and-coming organizations take the initiative to align their policies to the government’s AI strategies. With more people embracing AI technology, we can expect more people to provide innovative solutions to several public issues.

Make AI all-inclusive

Lastly, it is crucial to bridge the gap between AI professionals, large corporations, small and medium-sized businesses, and the rest of corporate America. They should unite to make artificial more inclusive and accessible all over the US.

What is the role of artificial intelligence in the federal government?

The General Services Administration is the agency tasked with managing the procurement of products and services for federal agencies. They introduced the Federal Acquisition Service to develop policies that streamline the transactions for federal agencies and GSA contractors. Leveraging AI can help them continue doing so.

GSA supports the initiatives of the government to the adoption of AI through the following ways:

  1. The Federal Acquisition Service (FAS) has made AI-related products and services more accessible through Schedule 70 and its associated programs like Startup Springboard and Fast Lane.

  2. The agency deployed AI technologies, including Robotic Process Automation (RPA), to streamline data-driven decisions and automated processes.

  3. The Emerging Citizen Technology Office (ECTO) aims to coordinate with different federal agencies to support the adoption of AI programs for internal agency use and public-facing purposes.

  4. To promote AI literacy, they embarked on IT modernization initiatives that involve AI and shared them with both their private sector and federal agency partners.

Ultimately, it seems that artificial intelligence in the federal government is currently in a holding pattern. 2019 saw the implementation of AI expand rapidly throughout the federal government. However, many factors, including a new president and global crises, forced AI innovation within the federal government to a standstill.

Yet, experts in the field are hopeful that as the current POTUS settles into his office and higher education gets back to some semblance of normalcy, the wheels of AI progress will start to turn once again.


Josh Ladick is the President of GSA Focus, Inc., and has been immersed in GSA Contracts and Government Contracting for over 13 years. I explain the complex GSA and FAR clauses in simple terms that anyone can understand, as well as keep government contractors informed on a broad group of GSA Contract related topics. More about Josh Ladick.

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