- President Donald Trump signed an executive order on Monday to launch the American Artificial Intelligence (AI) Initiative, which orders federal agencies to prioritize and provide resources for U.S.-based AI technology research and development (R&D).
- The initiative has five focus areas: investing in AI R&D, setting AI governance standards, building an AI workforce and promoting international engagement while protecting the American AI interests and values.
- The order does not offer any information about funding the American AI Initiative or details about how to put the plan into effect.
This executive order comes at a time when America's tech competitiveness is called into question, especially in comparison to China's. The order does not expressly name China, but is widely understood to take aim at the country, which two years ago unveiled a plan to become a global AI leader by 2030. The tension between the nations is notable with the back-and-forth trade war, as well as the United States' threats and actions toward Chinese tech company Huawei, which the federal government accuses of pilfering U.S. intellectual property and trade secrets.
The American AI Initiative also tackles a common public fear about new technology: job destruction. The order encourages federal agencies to prepare the workforce with the skills needed to adapt to and embrace AI technologies. It suggests apprenticeships, fellowships, skills programs and STEM education.
Increasingly, governments at all levels find themselves seeking solutions to a changing workforce as technology and the employment space evolve at a rapid pace. Government leaders and industry experts at the Chicago Forum on Global Cities last summer held a session on workforce modernization, noting that 75% of Americans worry that AI and automation will cause themselves or their loved ones to lose jobs. Experts recommended adapting to the change rather than fighting it, and encouraged creative public and private solutions to educate and re-train workers.
While the American AI Initiative aims to be innovative and tech-forward, it's receiving criticism for the lack of concrete programs, or more importantly, funding. While in some regards it makes sense to let every agency devise its own AI plan to ensure best fit, governments at all levels — especially city governments — already report tight budgets and difficulty with implementing new programs without additional funding appropriations. The administration reportedly is leaving the funding battle to Congress and more specifics about the American AI Initiative are expected in the coming months.