AI in Defense: Senator Rounds Reveals All

This week, senators from both parties announced their intention to amend the yearly defense policy bill to impose some boundaries on the rapidly developing field of artificial intelligence.

Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer, D-N.Y., has stated that he is working to incorporate several amendments to this year’s National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA) that will address several concerns relating to artificial intelligence and national security.

Sen. Mike Rounds (R-SD) has been working for over a year on a ‘bug bounty’ system that would incentivize white-hat hackers to assist the Defense Department in finding vulnerabilities in their AI systems, one of the measures proposed in the AI amendment.

Senator Mike Rounds said in an interview on Wednesday that efforts are underway to create a reward program to identify vulnerabilities using artificial intelligence and develop countermeasures.

The amendment also includes suggestions for learning more about the military’s use of AI and how to counter risks from that source. It has wording requiring multiple reports from Pentagon officials and financial regulators. It is meant to improve the government’s understanding of its current AI capabilities and provide Congress and officials with a direction on where it’s headed.

When asked to describe other parts of the amendment, Rounds said AI is already here and used to defend the United States from its enemies. According to Rounds, the government is interested in learning about each agency’s current and future AI use and whether it has a comprehensive set of measures to safeguard the country against the malicious use of AI.

According to Rounds, the amendment also serves as a message from the Senate to the Department of Defense, asking them to detail their long-term strategy for collecting data on AI and coordinating all the associated AI systems they use or plan to use. And now they’re discussing future-proofing their workforce with AI experts.

Schumer has said that he wants the Senate to educate himself and his colleagues on artificial intelligence and that a larger bill to govern AI will be coming soon when more hearings are held in the fall. On Tuesday, Schumer spoke positively about this first move in combatting the issue on the Senate floor.

According to Schumer, the Senate has already done substantial groundwork to educate themselves on this topic. However, the NDAA is the first chance the Senate will have to adopt AI legislation this year.

According to Rounds, suggestions in a study from a year ago by an AI commission inspired the change. He acknowledged that these steps could be more comprehensive but argued that the Senate should take them as a simple first step.

This year, artificial intelligence (AI) has been a hot subject on Capitol Hill, with tech CEOs meeting publicly and privately with senators to explore whether or not to begin regulating the technology and, if so, how.

The NDAA was approved by the House of Representatives last week. Rep. Marc Molinaro (R-NY) introduced a measure requiring the Pentagon to investigate any holes in American military defenses that adversaries could exploit using artificial intelligence as a weapon.

The Defense Department is urged under other sections of the House NDAA bill to investigate how artificial intelligence could be used to strengthen U.S. national security.