Federal watchdog finds more than 1,000 ways government could use AI

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A Government Accountability Office (GAO) report released on Tuesday found that federal agencies have more than 1,200 potential uses for artificial intelligence (AI), with over 200 already being employed.

“Given the rapid growth in capabilities and widespread adoption of AI, the federal government must manage its use of AI in a responsible way to minimize risk, achieve intended outcomes, and avoid unintended consequences,” the GAO wrote. 

“As a result, we performed this work under the authority of the Comptroller General to assist Congress with its continued oversight of AI,” it added.

About 69 percent of agencies’ AI use cases — particular challenges or opportunities that can be solved with the AI — centered on science and internal management, the GAO noted in its report.

NASA had by far the most planned and actual uses for the technology, at 390, followed by the Department of Commerce at 285. 

Three agencies — the Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD), Nuclear Regulatory Commission and Small Business Administration (SBA) — did not report any potential uses for AI. 

Some 282 applications are already in use by agencies, including 123 that have been in use for more than a year. 

For instance, NASA currently uses AI for a global surveillance program to study volcanoes, and the Commerce Department uses the technology for satellite-based fire detection and prediction, according to the report.

The GAO reviewed AI use case inventories from 23 federal agencies, as well as the Office of Management and Budget (OMB) and the Office of Science and Technology Policy (OSTP) for Tuesday’s report.

It also examined to what extent the agencies have implemented various policy and guidance related to AI, including the AI in Government Act of 2020, two executive orders from former President Trump and one from President Biden. 

Ten out of the 23 agencies that the GAO reviewed had fully implemented all AI-related requirements, the report found. Another 12 agencies were at various stages of implementation, while the Nuclear Regulatory Commission was exempted.

The OMB and OSTP also have yet to fully meet their requirements, according to the report.

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