The National Security Commission on Artificial Intelligence was formally established in August 2018 by the John S. McCain National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA) for Fiscal Year 2019. The Commission’s members were appointed in October and November 2018. In March 2019, the Commissioners first assembled to receive orientation information and briefings from the White House, Department of Defense, Department of Commerce, and various agencies in the U.S. Intelligence Community. The Commission began its substantive work of reviewing artificial intelligence advances and associated technologies after the initial meeting.
There are fifteen Commissioners appointed to the National Security Commission on Artificial Intelligence. Of the fifteen Commissioners, twelve were appointed by members of Congress, two were appointed by the Secretary of Defense, and one was appointed by the Secretary of Commerce. You can find information about all 15 Commission members on our website.
The Commission is a temporary organization. At this time, and as directed by Congress in the Fiscal Year 2019 and Fiscal Year 2020 NDAAs, the Commission will submit its final report to Congress in March 2021, and due to the urgency of AI issues in national security, the Commissioners agreed to submit quarterly recommendations to Congress. In the Fiscal Year 2020 NDAA, Congress extended the Commission’s end date to October 1, 2021.
Congress asked the Commission to “review advances in artificial intelligence, related machine learning developments, and associated technologies.” Congress further elaborated that the review “shall consider the methods and means necessary to advance the development of artificial intelligence, machine learning, and associated technologies by the United States to comprehensively address the national security and defense needs of the United States.” The enacting legislation lays out the full scope of the Commission’s review. You can find the full text of the Commission’s enacting legislation here.
The Commission is comprised of six lines of effort. Each line of effort meets bi-monthly and is comprised of a subset of commissioners supported by dedicated permanent and detailed staff members. The lines of effort are Invest in AI Research Development & Software; Apply AI to National Security Missions; Train and Recruit AI Talent; Protect and Build Upon U.S. Technology Advantages & Hardware; Marshal Global AI Cooperation; and Ethics. Additional information on how NSCAI is organized can be found here.
The NSCAI staff is comprised of about 25 full-time staff members, as well as detailees from various Federal entities.
For the purposes of its work, the Commission is using the definition of artificial intelligence as defined by Congress in the Commission’s enacting legislation. Specifically, Congress defined it for the Commission as:
(1) Any artificial system that performs tasks under varying and unpredictable circumstances without significant human oversight, or that can learn from experience and improve performance when exposed to data sets.
(2) An artificial system developed in computer software, physical hardware, or other context that solves tasks requiring human-like perception, cognition, planning, learning, communication, or physical action.
(3) An artificial system designed to think or act like a human, including cognitive architectures and neural networks.
(4) A set of techniques, including machine learning that is designed to approximate a cognitive task.
(5) An artificial system designed to act rationally, including an intelligent software agent or embodied robot that achieves goals using perception, planning, reasoning, learning, communicating, decision-making, and acting.
The Commission’s staff has held numerous meetings with individuals or entities interested in AI and national security issues, including engagements with leading AI experts from industry, government, academia, non-profit organizations, and individuals on a variety of AI topics. The Commission’s members have also held multiple working group meetings and plenary meetings, virtually and in person. Partner entities, allies, and others have provided Commission members with classified and unclassified briefings on topics within the Commission’s scope of its review.
The Commission’s first public engagement was a conference on November 5, 2019. This conference brought together thought leaders and the Commission’s members to discuss some of the issues identified during the Commission’s assessment phase. On May 28, 2020 and September 23, 2020, the Commission posted a Notice for Public Comment in the Federal Register to solicit feedback on AI and national security issues from members of the public. You can find the notices here and here. The Commission hosted a public meeting on July 20, 2020 to consider its second quarter 2020 recommendations. The Commission will host a public meeting on October 8, 2020 to consider its 2020 interim report and third quarter 2020 recommendations. Information about the Commission’s public meetings can be found here.
A Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) request is a written request received by a U.S. federal agency from an individual or entity requesting agency records. Anyone can submit a FOIA request to the Commission by emailing FOIA@nscai.gov with a description of the desired records.
The Commission is currently accepting written public comments in two ways. You can provide your written comments to firstname.lastname@example.org or by following the instructions in our Federal Register Notice (dated May 28, 2020 and found here) which provides additional details on submitting public comments. The Commission issued a second Federal Register Notice (dated September 23, 2020 and found here) to request comments from small- and medium-sized AI firms to help the Commission understand different views on working with the Federal Government.