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AI Implementation in U.S. Federal Agencies

AI Implementation in U.S. Federal Agencies

The National Aeronautical Space Administration and Department Commerce represent nearly half of the roughly 1,200 artificial intelligence implementation opportunities reported in Fiscal Year 2022.

The U.S. Government Accounting Office (GAO) concluded that of the 20 federal agencies surveyed, the majority of artificial intelligence (AI) projects are in the planning, or pre-production, phase and that 75% of the agencies were challenged by incomplete and inaccurate data (GAO, 2023). Of the 20 agencies, two—the National Aeronautical and Space Administration (NASA) and Department of Commerce—account for 675 of the roughly 1,200 (approximately 56%) AI projects reported in 2022. The GAO also concluded that federal agencies, overall, need to continue working towards U.S. Government AI requirements. A copy of the GAO report, Artificial Intelligence: Agencies Have Begun Implementation but Need to Complete Key Requirements, is available here

From GAO’s report (pp. 2-3), 

What GAO Found
Twenty of 23 agencies reported about 1,200 current and planned artificial intelligence (AI) use cases—specific challenges or opportunities that AI may solve. Three agencies reported not having uses for AI. Agency reported uses included analyzing data from cameras and radar to identify border activities, analyzing photographs from drones, and targeting of scientific specimens for planetary rovers. The National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) and the Department of Commerce (Commerce) reported the highest number of AI use cases (see figure).

Most of the reported AI use cases were in the planning phase and not yet in production (i.e., currently used) (see figure). In about 200 instances, agencies reported that they were currently using AI.

GAO’s analysis of agencies’ inventories of use cases identified instances of incomplete and inaccurate data. Specifically, five agencies provided comprehensive information for each of their reported use cases while the other 15 had instances of incomplete and inaccurate data. For example, some inventories did not include required data elements, such as the AI life cycle stage or an indication of whether an AI use case was releasable or not. In addition, two inventories included AI uses that were later determined by the agencies to not be AI. Without accurate inventories, the government’s management of its use of AI will be hindered by incomplete and inaccurate data. 

Federal agencies have taken initial steps to comply with AI requirements in executive orders and federal law; however, more work remains to fully implement these.

  • Commerce and the General Services Administration (GSA) fully implemented selected requirements. Specifically, Commerce created a plan to develop AI technical standards and GSA established the AI Center of Excellence.
  • The Offices of Management and Budget (OMB) and Personnel Management (OPM) did not fully implement selected requirements. OMB has not yet developed guidance for the acquisition and use of AI. OPM has not yet established or updated an occupational category for those employees performing AI work.
  • The Office of Science and Technology Policy (OSTP) did not communicate its designation of which agencies were expected to fulfill specific AI requirements.
  • Ten of 23 agencies implemented all AI requirements specific to their agencies, 12 implemented some but not all, and one was exempt from the requirements. These requirements included preparing an inventory on the use of AI, planning for inventory updates, and planning for AI regulatory authorities.

Addressing these requirements will improve agency identification, development, implementation, and oversight of AI.

The news release, highlights, full report, and other information are available from the GAO here.

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