Government Relations Update October 2023

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Estimated reading time: 3 minutes

By Sam Burns, Policy Advisor

President Signs Executive Order on AI

On October 30, President Biden signed Executive Order 14110 on Safe, Secure, and Trustworthy Development and Use of Artificial Intelligence. This Executive Order (EO) aims to promote AI development, provide safeguards for workers, and share guidance on a safe path forward for these emerging technologies. Other major elements include:

  • Directives for many federal agencies to prepare for supporting the responsible development of AI and integrating it into their operations.
  • Protections for consumer privacy.
  • Imposes new transparency requirements on companies developing AI technologies with national security implications.
  • Commissions a federal report on the potential economic impacts of AI on American workers.

The most consequential component of the EO for the research and education (R&E) community is the establishment of the National Artificial Intelligence Research Resource (NAIRR) Pilot Program. This new initiative will be led by the National Science Foundation (NSF) and will draw on the recommendations of the NAIRR Task Force’s Final Report from January 2023.

Quoting from the report, the NAIRR is envisioned to create “a shared research infrastructure that will provide AI researchers and students with significantly expanded access to computational resources, high-quality data, educational tools, and user support.”

The NAIRR Pilot Program will be launched by January 28, 2024. Prior to the launch date, the Director of NSF will identify federal and private sector computational, data, software, and training resources that could be included in the Pilot Program. To aid in that process, relevant federal agencies identified by the Director will have until December 14, 2023, to submit reports to NSF detailing the status and capabilities of those resources within their control. Independent regulatory agencies, such as the Federal Communications Commission, are also encouraged to take these steps to support the Pilot Program.

Additional information about the EO can be found in this White House fact sheet and within the order itself.

House Passes Department of Energy Funding Bill

On October 26, the House of Representatives passed the Energy and Water Development and Related Agencies Appropriations Act of 2024 (H.R. 4394) by a vote of 210 to 199. While this bill is unlikely to become law, it does serve as a barometer for the agenda of the House Republican majority under the new leadership of Speaker Mike Johnson (LA-04).

The bill includes funding for various programs and offices inside and outside the Department of Energy (DOE), including the Office of Science at DOE, which is very relevant for the R&E community. The Office of Science oversees the National Laboratories and the Energy Sciences Network (ESnet), which connects them. The bill fits with other funding bills passed by the House this year that largely seek to impose across-the-board cuts or freezes to the budgets of most federal agencies. DOE requested $8.8 billion for the 2024 fiscal year, but H.R. 4394 provides only $8.1 billion for the Office of Science, which freezes funding for fiscal year 2024 in place at fiscal year 2023 levels.

The deadline for funding the government remains November 17, 2023, and the possibility of a shutdown stemming from a lack of consensus between the House, Senate, and the White House still looms large. However, the House may coalesce around a proposal to extend funding at current levels until either January or April of 2024 to buy additional time for negotiation on a permanent funding structure for the remainder of the 2024 fiscal year.