President Donald Trump signed an executive order (EO) on December 3, providing guidance for federal agency adoption of artificial intelligence (AI) for government decision-making in a manner that protects privacy and civil rights.

Emphasizing that ongoing adoption and acceptance of AI will depend significantly on public trust, the EO charges the Office of Management and Budget with charting a roadmap for policy guidance by May 2021 for how agencies should use AI technologies in all areas excluding national security and defense.  The policy guidance should build upon and expand existent applicable policies addressing information technology design, development, and acquisition.

In order to standardize practices across agencies, the EO sets out nine principles to be applied when designing, acquiring, and using AI.  These principles include that AI use must be lawful and respectful of the nation’s values; purposeful and performance-driven; accurate, reliable, and effective; safe, secure, and resilient; understandable; responsible and traceable; regularly monitored; transparent; and accountable.

The EO also directs interagency bodies, in coordination with the Chief Information Officers Council, to identify, provide guidance on, and make publicly available information on non-classified and non-sensitive use cases of AI by agencies, which may provide new insights into how federal agencies currently deploy AI technology as well as potential new growth areas as agencies work to bring their use into compliance with the new guidance.  The push for new AI development also could lead to an expansion of federal personnel with AI expertise.

The EO is another measure in the Trump administration’s efforts to define policies for AI, and follows the Office of Management and Budget guidance for federal agency regulation of AI applications in private sector, issued on November 17.  With few departures from the draft guidance published earlier this year, the core of the recent OMB guidance is to ensure that agency-implemented regulations do not “hamper AI innovation and growth.”  To that end, the OMB guidance urges agencies to first assess the effects in order to avoid “regulatory and non-regulatory actions that needlessly hamper AI innovation and growth.”  The OMB guidance also highlights the need for a top-down standardization “to address inconsistent, burdensome, and duplicative State laws’ that might interfere with a national market, but to avoid national regulatory action in instances where uniformity is not essential.

The OMB guidance comes 21 months after President Trump issued an executive order (Maintaining American Leadership in Artificial Intelligence), which marked the launch of the American AI Initiative and sought to accelerate AI development and regulation to secure the United States’ place as a global leader in AI technologies.