Director’s Corner: Updating the National AI Research & Development Strategic Plan

A key goal of the National Artificial Intelligence (AI) Initiative, as defined by the National AI Initiative Act of 2020, is to “ensure continued United States leadership in AI research and development” (R&D). Achieving this goal requires consistent and sustained Federal investments in cutting-edge AI R&D, particularly for those areas in which industry has few incentives to invest, along with support for AI education and training opportunities for more Americans.

Guiding these Federal AI R&D investments is a National AI R&D strategic plan that identifies and prioritizes areas of AI R&D that require Federal leadership and investment.  The first-ever National AI R&D Strategic Plan (circa 2016) laid out seven key strategic areas for Federal investments in AI.  Recognizing that the state of the art in AI evolves very quickly, an update to this plan was issued in 2019. The National AI R&D Strategic Plan: 2019 Update kept the original seven goals of the first strategic plan, and added an eighth goal to focus on the importance of partnerships.

Now, in 2022, efforts are underway to update this AI R&D strategy once again, so that Federal investments can drive the advances in AI technology that will ensure continued U.S. leadership in the field and unlock new economic opportunities and new solutions to challenging world problems. This update will put the Federal government on a pace of regular updates to the AI R&D strategic plan every three years, as required by Congress.

Updating the AI R&D strategic plan requires input from the public as well as from AI R&D experts across the U.S. government. To provide a mechanism for public input, a Request for Information to the Update of the National AI R&D Strategic Plan was posted on the Federal Register on February 2, 2022. AI R&D experts from the Federal agencies will evaluate the input received and work across the interagency to formulate an updated plan. The new plan will be released by the Office of Science and Technology Policy, based on the work of the National Science and Technology Council’s (NSTC) Select Committee on AI, the NSTC Machine Learning and AI Subcommittee, the National AI Initiative Office, and the Networking and Information Technology Research and Development Program’s National Coordination Office. It is anticipated to be released by the end of the 2022 calendar year.

Importantly, this regularly-updated strategic plan does not just sit on a shelf – it is used by Federal research funding agencies to guide and prioritize their AI R&D investments. To foster transparency, Federal agencies annually report on their AI R&D investments, aligned with each of the priority areas defined in the Strategic Plan. For the most recent reporting, see pages 23-26 of the NITRD and NAIIO Supplement to the President’s FY2022 Budget and the AI R&D Investment Dashboard.

As with any field of science and engineering, as questions are answered, new ones arise.  The pace of AI innovation today means that an AI R&D strategy from just a few years ago can rapidly become out of date.  Establishing a regular cadence of updates to the AI R&D strategic plan will ensure that Federal investment priorities keep pace with the rapidly evolving technical environment and drive U.S. AI innovation to new heights.

Lynne Parker is the Director of the National Artificial Intelligence Initiative Office.


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