Joe Biden wants the US government to make wider use of artificial intelligence—and to keep commercial AI on a tighter leash. Those are two prominent themes of a sprawling executive order Biden will sign today, which issues dozens of directives for federal agencies to complete within the next year, on topics ranging from national security and immigration to housing and health care.
The order places reporting requirements on companies developing powerful AI technology, such as that behind OpenAI’s ChatGPT. Biden will use the Defense Production Act, a law that can compel businesses to take actions in the interest of national security, to require the makers of large AI models to report key information to the government, including when they are training a new model and what cybersecurity protections they have.
That will include disclosing results of so-called red teaming exercises, intended to reveal vulnerabilities in AI models, such as those that can be used to evade controls that prevent malicious use cases such as generating malware. The goal is to monitor the potential threats AI technology can pose to national security, public health, and the economy.
Another part of the order requires companies that acquire, develop, or possess large-scale computing clusters, essential to training the most powerful AI systems, to report their activity to the federal government. This rule is intended to help the government understand which entities, including those from nations competing with the US, have strong AI capabilities.
The executive order also directs the Department of Energy to evaluate how AI outputs can contribute to biological or chemical attacks, or cyber attacks on critical infrastructure. The UK government included the possibility of advanced AI enabling biological and chemical attacks in a report last week on potential threats posed by the technology.
White House deputy chief of staff Bruce Reed, who is chair of a newly formed White House AI Council to ensure compliance with the order, calls it “the strongest set of actions any government in the world has ever taken on AI safety, security, and trust.”
The measures in Biden’s executive order aimed at powering up US government AI include the creation of a dedicated job portal hosted at AI.gov to draw more experts and researchers familiar with the technology into government. Another initiative asks for a new training program to produce 500 AI researchers by 2025.
Divyansh Kaushik, an associate director at policy research group the Federation of American Scientists, who helped draft portions of the executive order, says those could be among the most influential pieces. “People often forget that talent is the biggest bottleneck in the federal government,” he says.