Double exposure of creative artificial Intelligence with US flag

US Senate AI Working Group releases roadmap for AI legislation, funding and research

After months of discussion, hundreds of stakeholder meetings, and nine “first-of-their-kind” all-Senator AI insight forums, the bipartisan U.S. Senate AI Working Group—led by U.S. Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-NY) comprising Senators Mike Rounds (R-SD), Todd Young (R-IN), and Martin Heinrich (D-NM)—released a report titled “Driving U.S. Innovation in Artificial Intelligence: A Roadmap for Artificial Intelligence Policy in the United States Senate.”

The roadmap is the result of a series of off-the-record “educational briefings,” including “the first ever all-senators classified briefing focused solely on AI,” and nine “AI Insight Forums” hosted in 2023, which drew on the participation of more than 150 experts from industry, academia, and civil society.

The 31-page report contained recommendations on AI policy for Senate committees as they continue to develop legislation, the goal being to achieve a bipartisan consensus on issues explored during the AI Insight Forums.

“No technology offers more promise to our modern world than artificial intelligence. But AI also presents a host of new policy challenges. Harnessing the potential of AI demands an all-hands-on-deck approach and that’s exactly what our bipartisan AI working group has been leading,” said Schumer.

“Our working group was able to identify key areas of policy that have bipartisan consensus. Now, the work continues with our Committees, Chairmen, and Ranking Members to develop and advance legislation with urgency and humility.”

The roadmap’s recommendations covered potential funding priorities, such as the National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST) AI testing; legislative and regulatory actions, such as identifying gaps in the application of existing laws to AI systems; and areas for further study or consideration, such as public/private partnerships and AI’s long-term impact on the future of work.

“As members of the AI Working Group, we are steadfast in our dedication to harnessing the full potential of AI while minimizing the risks of AI in the near and long term,” read the report.

“We hope this roadmap will stimulate momentum for new and ongoing consideration of bipartisan AI legislation, ensure the United States remains at the forefront of innovation in this technology, and help all Americans benefit from the many opportunities created by AI.”

Background

The 118th Congress has seen a heavy focus on AI. Over the past 17 months lawmakers have introduced more than 80 individual pieces of legislation related to AI, including several pieces of legislation that coincided with the release of the roadmap.

On Wednesday, the Senate Rules Committee advanced three bills introduced by Chair Amy Klobuchar (D-MN) to address the impact of AI-generated deepfakes on elections: the Protect Elections from Deceptive AI ActAI Transparency in Elections Act of 2024, and the Preparing Election Administrators for AI Act.

This came just a week after House Representatives on the Foreign Affairs Committee—Michael McCaul (R-TX), John Moolenaar (R-MI), Raja Krishnamoorthi (D-IL) and Susan Wild (D-PA)—announced the Enhancing National Frameworks for Overseas Critical Exports Act, which aims to protect U.S. innovation from rival nations and empower the Commerce Department to control the transfer of advanced AI systems.

In 2024 alone, committees in the House and Senate have held more than 50 hearings to examine AI’s impact on a broad range of issues, including national security, cybersecurity, elections, energy, healthcare, financial services, consumer protection, and intellectual property.

In April last year, senators Schumer, Heinrich, Young, and Rounds convened the series of nine “AI Insight Forums” to seek input from industry, academia, and civil society. Specifically, the forums focused on (1) the overarching issues that the government needs to address as it regulates AI, (2) supporting U.S. innovation in AI, (3) AI and the workforce, (4) high-impact uses of AI, (5) elections and democracy, (6) privacy and liability, (7) transparency, explainability, intellectual property, and copyright, (8) safeguarding against AI risks, and (9) national security.

These nine forums informed the roadmap and its various recommendations.

The key recommendations

The comprehensive list of recommendations in the roadmap can be broken down into three categories: funding priorities, development of new legislation, and areas for further study.

It laid out funding goals for the next few years, rising from $8 billion in fiscal year 2024 to $32 billion in 2026. In terms of how the money should be spent, the report suggested a broad spectrum of areas that could benefit, including funding:

  • R&D that spans the Department of Energy, Department of Commerce, National Science Foundation, NIST, National Institutes of Health, NASA, and other agencies and departments;
  • Semiconductor R&D, specifically the design and manufacturing of future generations of high-end AI chips “with the goals of ensuring increased American leadership in cutting-edge AI”;
  • “A series of ‘AI Grand Challenge’ programs… with a focus on technical innovation challenges in applications of AI that would fundamentally transform the process of science, engineering, or medicine”;
  • Supporting various agencies in materials research “to identify, test, and synthesize new materials to support advanced manufacturing through the use of AI”;
  • Local election assistance funding to support AI readiness and cybersecurity;
  • And measures to address national security threats and risks.

The report made policy recommendations on the development of new legislation based on the various topics discussed during last April’s AI Insight Forums.

Key examples included leveraging public-private partnerships to support AI advancements, legislation to support AI use standards in critical infrastructure, legislation to advance effective watermarking and digital content provenance for AI-generated election content, prohibiting the use of AI for social scoring, and addressing AI-generated child sexual abuse material.

When it came to areas for further study and consideration by Congress, the working group’s suggestions included investigating the societal implications and regulatory needs of AI in critical sectors (such as housing and journalism), studying the impact of AI on jobs, considering new standards and clarity around existing standards for AI developer/deployer liability, and exploring policy implications of different product release choices for AI systems, mainly closed vs. fully open-source models.

Next steps

Senate committees will now be tasked with considering the funding recommendations, exploring the areas of further study, and developing legislative solutions to address the issues raised.

“Ultimately, it is the hope of this group that this roadmap helps to inform consideration of bipartisan AI legislation that maintains U.S. leadership on innovation, promotes safety and accountability in AI, and ensures all Americans benefit from the opportunities created by AI,” said Senator Schumer’s press release on Wednesday.

A sentiment that was echoed by Senator Rounds, who said that the “roadmap to the future of AI” sets the stage for the technology to thrive in the U.S., “as we seek to harness its power to bring greater prosperity to the American people while also mitigating potential long-term risks. I look forward to seeing how my colleagues use their policy expertise in each committee to address these issues through regular order.”

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