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White House orders federal agencies to name chief AI officers

Fed Chair on AI research
Chairman Jerome Powell on AI research at Federal Reserve 01:17

The White House is ordering all federal agencies to name chief artificial intelligence officers to oversee the federal government's various approaches to AI and manage the risks that the rapidly evolving technologies might pose.

That directive is part of a government-wide policy from the White House's Office of Management and Budget, or OMB, that Vice President Kamala Harris announced Thursday, following a sweeping AI executive order President Biden signed in October. The White House is trying to push the federal government — known more for its slow-moving bureaucracy than its ability to adopt cutting-edge technology — to keep up with the changes in the field of artificial intelligence.

"We have directed all federal agencies to designate a chief AI officer with the experience, expertise, and authority to oversee all — I'm going to emphasize that — all AI technologies used by that agency," Harris said Wednesday in embargoed remarks on the new policy. "And this is to make sure that AI is used responsibly, understanding that we must have senior leaders across our government who are specifically tasked with overseeing AI adoption and use."

The new OMB policy also requires federal agencies to establish AI governance boards to coordinate and establish rules for the use of AI technologies across each agency. The White House says the departments of Defense, Housing and Urban Development, State and Veterans Affairs have already set up governance boards. The Biden administration plans to hire 100 AI professionals across agencies by this summer.

By December, federal agencies must also put in place what the White House calls "concrete safeguards" when they use AI "in a way that could impact Americans' rights or safety."

For example, Harris said Wednesday, if the VA wants to use AI in VA hospitals to help diagnose patients, the department would first need to demonstrate the AI doesn't produce "racially biased diagnoses."

The White House will also be requiring federal agencies to post a list of their AI systems online, along with an assessment of the risks those systems might pose and how they plan to manage them, Harris said. That list will need to be published and updated each year.

"President Biden and I intend that these domestic policies will serve as a model for global action," Harris said. 

Overseeing the federal government's adoption of AI technologies is one of the many hats Harris has been given as vice president. She delivered a major policy speech in London in November on the U.S. government's vision for the future of AI. 

AI has at times become a problem for Mr. Biden personally. AI was used to impersonate the president in fake robocalls that went out to New Hampshire voters, and fake and manipulated videos of the president have emerged online. 

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