Artificial IntelligenceInnovation & CompetitivenessResearch & Development

White House Issues Executive Order on Artificial Intelligence


On 11 February, President Trump signed an Executive Order giving guidance to federal agencies designed to accelerate America’s leadership in artificial intelligence (AI) technology.

The Order was a follow-up to his remarks in the annual State of the Union address stressing the importance of investing in the cutting-edge industries of the future. AI is the first of four critical technologies that have been targeted by the White House for priority treatment, including 5G, quantum computing and advanced manufacturing.

The Executive Order does not set a funding target or propose new funding for AI-related research; however, it does call on federal R&D agencies to increase their focus on AI in their FY2020 budget requests. It is presumed these increases will be offset, at least in part, by cuts to other research programs.

Heads of agencies are also directed to identify opportunities for increased use of federal AI data and research models by the non-federal AI research community to drive private sector innovation, while “protecting safety, security, privacy, and confidentiality.” Agencies are also encourage to prioritize the discretionary allocation of high-performance computing and cloud storage resources for AI-related applications.

The Order gives similar direction to federal educational agencies to prioritize AI-related educational grants in existing federal fellowship and service programs as a workforce development measure.

The order tasks the National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST) director with issuing a plan for federal engagement in developing technical standards and related tools to support:

  • Development of reliable, robust, and trustworthy AI
  • Creation of new AI-related industries
  • Adoption of AI by today’s industries

NIST will also address opportunities for, and challenges to, United States leadership in standardization related to AI technologies.

The Assistant to the President for National Security Affairs was directed to develop an action plan to “protect the United States advantage in AI and AI technology critical to United States economic and national security interests against strategic competitors and adversarial nations.”

The Executive Order also puts in motion an efforts to define an AI regulatory regime by charging the Director of the Office of Management and Budget, in coordination with other White House policy councils, agencies and key stakeholders, to offer a memorandum with guidelines designed to enhance AI innovation and reduce barriers to the use of AI technologies, while ensuring public trust, by upholding civil liberties, privacy and American values. The memorandum will be made available for public comment before adoption.

The overall federal AI effort will be coordinated through a Select Committee on Artificial Intelligence established under the National Science and Technology Council (NSTC), and working under the oversight of the President’s American Technology Council. The Select Committee is also charged with providing advice to NSTC’s STEM Education Committee on AI-related educational and workforce development considerations that focus on American citizens.

Although clearly directed at helping build and sustain U.S. leadership over China in AI technology, the Executive Order notably does not address the issues of export controls on critical technologies or intellectual property protection that currently color U.S.-China relations.



Guest Contributor

IEEE-USA is an organizational unit of the Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers, Inc. (IEEE), created in 1973 to support the career and public policy interests of IEEE’s U.S. members. IEEE-USA is primarily supported by an annual assessment paid by U.S. IEEE Members.

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