Artificial Intelligence defense bill

Senate Committee approved defense bill calls for AI pilot program, increased quantum computing research

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The United States Senate Armed Services Committee (SASC) has passed the fiscal year 2025 National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA), which included directions for a Department of Defense (DoD) artificial intelligence (AI) pilot program and the development of quantum computing capabilities.

Senators Jack Reed (D-RI) and Roger Wicker (R-MS), Chairman and Ranking Member of the SASC, respectively, announced the NDAA’s resounding 22-3 vote in favor of the bill on June 13; it will now head to the Senate floor for consideration.

A core focus of the bill was advanced technologies, with key provisions including a pilot program to optimize AI-enabled software for the operations of DoD depots, manufacturing facilities, and shipyards and requiring the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency—a research and development agency of the DoD—to establish a Quantum Scaling Initiative to expand and support the development of quantum computing capabilities.

“I am glad that this year’s NDAA makes important progress in a number of areas, including a well-deserved pay raise for military servicemembers, powerful new security initiatives in the Indo-Pacific, and significant support for technologies like counter-drone defenses and AI,” said Senator Reed.

Despite his positive comments, Reed was one of the three Senators that voted against the bill. His concern was a funding increase that he said “cannot be appropriated without breaking lawful spending caps and causing unintended harm to our military. I appreciate the need for greater defense spending to ensure our national security, but I cannot support this approach.”

Senator Wicker, who voted in favor of the bill, maintained that its passage “shows there is bipartisan support for doing more to maintain deterrence and protect American interests.”

“I am encouraged that many of my colleagues have joined me in the conversation about the need to invest more in our national defense. I look forward to discussing the peace through strength vision I have laid out in the months to come,” Wicker added.

He then praised the NDAA FY 2025 as “a testament to the tradition of bipartisanship, vigorous debate, and good working order on which this committee prides itself.”

The proposed bill would authorize $878.4 billion for the DoD and $33.4 billion for national security programs within the Department of Energy. Outside of AI and quantum computing, other specific mandates included implementing a strategy for countering drone technologies and the development of a national integrated air and missile defense architecture.

There is still a long road ahead for the bill, which must now be debated and voted on by the full Senate. A separate measure will then have to make its way through the House of Representatives. Only once both chambers of Congress have agreed on a final version can it be sent to the President to be signed into law—which will likely not happen before the November election.

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