NATIONAL SECURITY COMMISSION ON ARTIFICIAL INTELLIGENCE FINAL REPORT

Preface


The National Security Commission on Artificial Intelligence’s (NSCAI) task is to make recommendations to the President and Congress to “advance the development of artificial intelligence [AI], machine learning, and associated technologies to comprehensively address the national security and defense needs of the United States.” In establishing the Commission, Section 1051 of the John S. McCain National Defense Authorization Act for Fiscal Year 2019 instructs NSCAI to examine AI through the lenses of national competitiveness, the means to sustain technological advantage, trends in international cooperation and competitiveness, ways to foster investment in basic and advanced research, workforce and training, potential risks of military use, ethical concerns, establishment of data standards and incentivization of data sharing, and the future evolution of AI.

The 15 commissioners were nominated by Congress and the Executive Branch. They represent a diverse group of technologists, business executives, academic leaders, and national security professionals. They have approached all inquiries in bipartisan fashion and reached consensus on the Final Report. The Commission’s operations have been guided by two principles: the need for action and the importance of transparency.

Action.

The Commission’s work includes an initial report in July 2019, interim reports in November 2019 and October 2020, two additional quarterly memorandums, a series of special papers in response to the COVID-19 pandemic, and now a final report. Waiting to deliver recommendations in a final report was not an option when we began our work in the spring of 2019. Assessing the broad national security implications of a dynamic technology like AI at a single point in time is like trying to catch lightning in a bottle. Scientists continue to deliver AI breakthroughs and the commercial sector is finding new ways to apply AI at an accelerating pace. Competitors around the world are developing AI strategies and investing resources. The Commission delivered recommendations on a continuous basis, aiming to match the speed of AI developments and the desires from the Executive Branch and Congress for help in deciding what to do. Congress has already adopted a number of our recommendations in the William M. (Mac) Thornberry National Defense Authorization Act for Fiscal Year 2021, and the Executive Branch has incorporated recommendations as well. And we have continuously sought to learn from and educate a wide range of stakeholders to build a shared understanding about how AI will impact national security.

Transparency.

The NSCAI has been committed to transparency. As a Federal Advisory Committee, it has held five public plenary sessions totaling approximately 15 hours of deliberations, streamed live online, and archived meeting recordings on the NSCAI website. It has responded to more than two dozen Freedom of Information Act requests and released more than 2,500 pages of material. NSCAI has posted more than 700 pages of draft materials for public review and comment. With the exception of materials and issues classified for national security reasons, the Commission has endeavored to offer full transparency. We have proactively engaged with the media after every plenary session, quarterly report, and submission to Congress. In dozens of separate engagements, we have partnered with non-governmental organizations, federal government organizations, and international organizations to communicate our recommendations to the media and the public.

Most important, we have taken on the hardest issues with AI in public settings and made recommendations only after consulting with a wide range of civil society, private sector, and government groups. We have tried to listen and understand views across the spectrum on deeply complicated aspects of AI. We have engaged ethicists, technologists, and national security strategists. We have spoken with warriors and diplomats. We have talked to academics and entrepreneurs. All told, commissioners and staff have participated in hundreds of discussions. As the commissioners built consensus on recommendations, we approached issues with care and humility.

The Final Report.

The Final Report presents the NSCAI’s recommendations as a strategy for winning the AI era. The 16 chapters in the Main Report provide topline recommendations. The accompanying Blueprints for Action outline concrete steps that departments and agencies can take to implement NSCAI recommendations. The Commission has provided as much specificity as possible—including by providing draft legislative text and executive orders—to help the President and Congress move rapidly from understanding AI to acting for the benefit of the American people.

The Final Report represents an important step, but it is not the NSCAI’s final act. For the remaining life of the Commission, our work will focus on implementation to help the President and Congress make the investments and take the actions recommended to win the AI era.