Joe Biden’s budget bets bigger on AI – Washington Times

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Call it the government’s first AI budget.

President Biden’s new spending blueprint, sent to Congress on Monday, includes an infusion of money spent on artificial intelligence, with a promise to tap AI’s potential while mitigating the risks posed by the emerging technology.

Mr. Biden asked Congress to approve $32 million for what he’s called the “AI talent surge,” an effort to hire computer and data scientists to explore AI, and $70 million for agencies to hire Chief AI Officers who would be responsible for making sure the computer scientists are doing it all safely.

The Energy Department says it’s bringing AI to its fight against climate change. Veterans Affairs would get $10 million in AI money for medical and prosthetic research, and the National Nuclear Security Administration would get $37 million to study AI misuse on chemical, biological or nuclear threats.

The Commerce Department would get $50 million to stand up its AI Safety Institute, which is supposed to come up with standards for use of AI, including sorting out human-made and AI-generated content and working on privacy guardrails.

And the budget envisions a total of $300 million in mandatory AI research funding government-wide.

“Advances in AI are creating groundbreaking opportunities, while changing the nature of work and organizational management,” the White House said in the spending blueprint it submitted to Congress. “To benefit from the opportunities created by AI while mitigating its risks, the administration is committed to advancing its management of AI and significantly expanding AI talent in the federal government.”

The AI funding is a tiny but growing part of overall federal spending, which Mr. Biden envisions to reach $7.3 trillion in fiscal year 2025, which begins Oct. 1.

It builds on last year’s budget, the first one following the public release of ChatGPT and the accompanying AI craze.

A lot of what Mr. Biden plans to spend would be to carry out his October executive order on “safe, secure and trustworthy” use of AI by the government.

But the budget also marks the beginnings of a government-wide assessment of how AI might help evaluate how the government is doing on big problems.

“Agencies will need to ask – and answer – evaluation questions such as: what is the impact of using AI on improved teacher productivity, student learning, and patient outcomes, as compared to current activities? Agencies must also evaluate the impacts of AI as it is deployed to improve targeting of government benefits and/or increase the reach of its programs,” the White House budget office said.

Many agencies seem to be still in the earliest stages of feeling out AI, though most of them paid some lip service to the idea Monday.

The Justice Department, for example, said it was requesting $2.5 million “to capitalize on the extraordinary capabilities of artificial intelligence in a responsible and secure manner.”

And Homeland Security Secretary Alejandro Mayorkas said he has earmarked $5 million for his department’s Chief AI Officer, and a hiring “sprint” to enlist 50 AI experts in 2024.

“The new DHS ‘AI Corps’ will leverage this new technology across priority missions of the homeland security enterprise including efforts to counter fentanyl, combat child sexual exploitation and abuse, secure travel, fortify our critical infrastructure, enhance our cybersecurity, and deliver immigration services,” the department said.

A comptroller general’s report last December surveyed 20 agencies and found 1,200 current or planned uses of AI. The National Aeronautics and Space Administration led the way with 390 uses, ranging from studying satellite data to managing the waiting room at a security ID badge office.

The Commerce Department ranked second at 285 uses and the Energy Department was a distant third at 117 uses, followed by Health and Human Services and the State Department.

The report also highlighted the feds’ struggles with AI, including some agencies’ delinquency in adopting safety regulations. The audit also said the government’s hiring agencies at the Office of Personnel Management were still trying to come up with a job classification for federal employees involved in AI work.

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