Senate Bill Would Require New Metrics to Fuse Artificial Intelligence Across the U.S. Defense Landscape

Sen. Mike Rounds, R-S.D., speaks during a Senate Armed Services Committee hearing.

Sen. Mike Rounds, R-S.D., speaks during a Senate Armed Services Committee hearing. Patrick Semansky/AP

It would fulfill a recent recommendation from the National Security Commission on AI.

Sen. Mike Rounds, R-S.D., recently introduced legislation that would require the Defense Department to institute performance objectives and metrics to incorporate artificial intelligence and digital readiness across all of its platforms, training and operations.

“As our adversaries become increasingly sophisticated in integrating AI into their military capabilities,” Rounds told Nextgov in an email on Tuesday, “we need to do the same.”

The Defense Department has made a range of moves to prioritize the widely used emerging technology in recent years. Launched in 2018, DOD’s Joint Artificial Intelligence Center, or JAIC, is a hub meant to strategically unify and accelerate AI applications across the United States’ entire defense and military enterprise. 

Still, as of now the department reportedly lacks explicit baselines and metrics to match and measure the execution of its ultimate AI mission. The National Security Commission on Artificial Intelligence—which was established by the National Defense Authorization Act of 2019 to review advances in AI, machine learning and related technologies and develop associated policy recommendations—noted in its final report that the Pentagon could implement new measures to improve the integration of AI-driven applications into its exercises, wargames, experiments and more.

“My bill would fulfill a recommendation of the [NSCAI],” Rounds noted.

Specifically, the five-page Department of Defense Artificial Intelligence Metrics Act, shared with Nextgov, would require government officials to gauge potential technology applications and produce clear metrics and performance objectives for officials to turn to when deploying them. In the process, each military department secretary and head of each DOD subcomponent would need to “conduct a comprehensive review of skill gaps in the fields of software development, software engineering, knowledge management, data science, and [AI],” assess the number and qualifications needed of personnel to fill such gaps—and then create “recruiting, training, and talent management performance objectives and accompanying metrics” to help the massive agency achieve appropriate staffing of tech-savvy staff. 

DOD’s AI investments and integrations would also be comprehensively reviewed. Among other provisions, the bill would mandate department staff to assess and create a path for AI to be further integrated into administrative functions across the agency, like for human resources, logistics, health care and human resources functions. 

A report would be due to Congress no later than 120 days after that full review is completed.

This bill was referred to the Senate Armed Services Committee. Rounds also expressed his intent to work with his Congressional colleagues to “make certain the provisions of this bill are included in the final NDAA” for fiscal 2022, which is currently in negotiations on the Hill. 

“This year’s NDAA must prioritize enhancing DOD’s use of evolving advanced technology,” he said.