Senate bill mandating agency chief AI officers gets House companion

Rep. Gerry Connolly, D-Va., is backing legislation to require agencies to name top AI officers.

Rep. Gerry Connolly, D-Va., is backing legislation to require agencies to name top AI officers. Kevin Dietsch/Getty Images

The proposal would codify several aspects of AI guidance released by the Office of Management and Budget in guidance this spring.

A Senate proposal to codify AI chiefs in agencies across the government got a House counterpart on Friday. 

Reps. Gerry Connolly, D-Va., and Andrew Garbarino, R-N.Y., say that the AI Leadership to Enable Accountable Deployment Act, or AI LEAD Act, would make sure that the government can leverage the rapidly advancing technology effectively and mitigate risks. 

The bill was originally backed in the Senate by Sens. Gary Peters, D-Mich., and John Cornyn, R-Texas, and passed out of the Senate Committee on Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs last July. 

Agencies are already under orders to tap chief AI officers under guidance issued by the Office of Management and Budget in March. The bill envisions these officials as guiding agency efforts to promote AI innovation, as well as generating a risk management plan for agency AI use cases.

“The federal government needs dedicated leadership to manage the potential disruption, risks, and promise of AI,” Connolly said in a statement about the bill. “Our legislation… will inject structure and accountability into the government’s management of AI and will ensure that every agency has the leadership in place to oversee the deployment of AI technology in safe and efficient ways.”

The proposal would also require agencies to set up an AI-focused governance board of senior officials — something that is also required under the OMB guidance — and officially designates the head of every agency as accountable for AI. 

Agencies would also be on the hook for developing an AI strategy under the proposal — something that the OMB guidance gave them a year to do, with a particular eye towards addressing barriers to the use of AI in government.

If the bill were to become law, the Chief AI Officers Council established under the OMB memo would also be codified to further AI coordination in government. 

“By establishing chief AI officer positions within our agencies and ensuring interagency cooperation on AI, this legislation would go a long way to mitigating the risks and maximizing the opportunities present by AI development and deployment,” Garbarino said. 

The bill is one of many focused on AI in government, not to mention AI writ large, that legislators have fielded on Capitol Hill as they stare down the end of this Congress after an election cycle in November.