New Bill Aims to Safeguard Federal Agency AI Procurement

The PREPARED For AI Act would require federal agencies to conduct risk assessments and establish oversight measures for purchasing AI systems

Ben Wodecki, Jr. Editor

June 27, 2024

4 Min Read
U.S. Congress building
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A bipartisan bill introduced in the Senate aims to establish safeguards for federal agencies purchasing and deploying AI systems.

The Promoting Responsible Evaluation and Procurement to Advance Readiness for Enterprise-Wide Deployment (PREPARED) for AI Act would mandate risk assessments for AI technologies before procurement and set guidelines for their use in government operations.

The bill would also create pilot programs so government agencies could test solutions before deployment, ensuring “more flexible, competitive purchasing practices.”

U.S. Senators Gary Peters  and Thom Tillis authored the bill, claiming agencies need to set safeguards to ensure the safe and trustworthy adoption of AI systems to serve the public. 

“Artificial intelligence has the power to reshape how the federal government provides services to the American people for the better, but if left unchecked, it can pose serious risks,” said Peters, who chairs the Senate’s Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee. “These guardrails will help guide federal agencies’ responsible adoption and use of AI tools, and ensure that systems paid for by taxpayers are being used safely and securely.” 

Various government agencies have adopted or are testing generative AI solutions to improve their work.

Related:Bipartisan Bill Seeks to Provide AI Tools, Training For Small Businesses

Homeland Security Investigations is using AI to assist in fentanyl-related crime investigations. The Air Force built its own iteration of a ChatGPT-like chatbot to encourage staff to experiment with generative AI.

Other examples include the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) using generative to enhance the training of immigration officers and a generative AI pilot at the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) is looking to assist local governments in supporting hazard mitigation.

A dedicated government webpage tracks federal AI use cases and states that the government is leveraging AI to “better serve the public across a wide array of use cases, including in health care, transportation, the environment and benefits delivery.”

The White House unveiled standards in April that federal agencies need to abide by when using AI technologies, including protecting rights and safety. 

This new legislation, however, focuses on the procurement of AI solutions.

The legislation would require agencies to assess the risk levels of potential new AI tools they plan to use, prioritizing public rights and safety — a concept not too dissimilar to the EU’s AI Act.

The bill will require government contracts for acquiring new AI solutions to include safety and security terms for data ownership, civil rights, civil liberties and privacy.

Related:Tech Lobbying Group Launches Campaign for AI Fair Use Rights

Agencies would be required to monitor potential risks before, during and after procurement with chief AI officers installed to oversee ongoing testing and evaluation.

Government agencies would also be mandated to be transparent about their use of AI by publicly disclosing the technologies they are using.

“As the role of AI in the public and private sectors continues to grow, it is crucial federal agencies have a robust framework for procuring and implementing AI safely and effectively,” said Tillis. “This legislation mandates clear guidelines for federal agencies and provides them with the tools to successfully navigate future advancements in AI.”

The bill is meant to align with the requirements of the Advancing American AI Act, a bill led by Senator Peters that became law in 2022.  

It also builds on President Biden’s landmark AI executive order that enforces AI uses to protect Americans' privacy and civil liberties.

The PREPARED For AI Act is supported by groups including the Center for Democracy and Technology, Transparency Coalition, the Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers (IEEE-USA) and the AI Procurement Lab.

“The U.S. must ensure that innovation does not come at the expense of its citizens,” said Gisele Waters and  Cari Miller, AI Procurement Lab co-founders. “Historical values that procurement promotes: price, competition and innovation, do not adequately address the transparency, expertise, and oversight needed to manage AI risk. The PREPARED for AI Act helps to address these government challenges.”

At the state level, California has similar rules in place, with agencies forced to conduct audits and risk assessments before adopting new AI systems.

About the Author(s)

Ben Wodecki

Jr. Editor

Ben Wodecki is the Jr. Editor of AI Business, covering a wide range of AI content. Ben joined the team in March 2021 as assistant editor and was promoted to Jr. Editor. He has written for The New Statesman, Intellectual Property Magazine, and The Telegraph India, among others. He holds an MSc in Digital Journalism from Middlesex University.

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