Bennet, Sasse Introduce Amendments to U.S. Innovation and Competition Act to Promote Democratic Values, Support Small Businesses in Emerging Technologies

Members of the Senate Intelligence Committee introduce bipartisan amendments to align new investments in R&D for emerging technologies with democratic values and support small business with expanded access to classified facilities

Washington, D.C. — U.S. Senators Michael Bennet (D-Colo.) and Ben Sasse (R-Neb.) today introduced three bipartisan amendments to the U.S. Innovation and Competition Act (USICA), the legislation now advancing in the Senate to invest in emerging technologies, shore up critical supply chains, and bolster America’s economic competitiveness and national security. USICA includes the Endless Frontier Act, along with other provisions from different Senate committees.

The first bipartisan amendment would create an expert task force to closely study the implications of the federal government’s uses of artificial intelligence (AI) for democratic values. Specifically, the task force would identify policy or legal gaps in federal uses of AI to ensure they align with democratic values, recommend actions to close these gaps, and provide baseline guidance for responsible federal uses of AI and stewardship of associated data.

The second bipartisan amendment would seek to align federal investment, research, development, and applications of emerging technologies with democratic values. It directs the National Science Foundation (NSF) to account, where appropriate, for the implications of its research and development into emerging technologies for democratic values. It would also require each federal agency engaged in the development, application, or oversight of emerging technologies to appoint a senior, full-time employee to drive the responsible use of emerging technologies, provide expertise on responsible policies and practices, and lead interagency coordination.

The third bipartisan amendment would increase access for small- and medium-sized businesses to classified facilities on a flexible basis, reducing barriers to entry for them to work with the federal government while allowing them to accelerate and better tailor services to meet critical national security needs.

“Technologies reflect values, for better or worse,” said Bennet. “As the Chinese government exports its totalitarian, surveillance technologies across the globe, America has an opportunity -- and responsibility -- to ensure that the historic investments in emerging technologies included in the U.S. Innovation and Competition Act reflect our commitment to democratic values such as privacy, civil rights, due process, and the rule of law. These amendments affirm the bipartisan recognition that America’s economic leadership and democratic values go hand-in-hand. They will also support American small businesses by expanding their access to classified facilities, making it easier for them to work with the federal government and tailor services to meet our national security needs.”

“Chairman Xi’s Communist Party wants to spread its anti-democratic values around the world and is using emerging technologies as a tool,” said Sasse. “America needs to be ramping up — both public and private — investment and development of AI and new tech to make sure we keep leading the world. Partnering our public systems and resources with the ingenuity of America’s private sector is a no brainer. This will bring the full force of our power to bear and is critical to making sure we counter China’s dictatorship and their theft of our IP.”

The senators plan to push for a vote on these amendments to USICA when the bill reaches the Senate floor later this month. 

The bipartisan amendments draw on recommendations from the National Security Commission on Artificial Intelligence, an expert group chaired by former Google CEO Eric Schmidt to consider how to advance the development of AI, machine learning, and associated technologies to address the national security and defense needs of the United States.

The amendments also build on Bennet’s work to ensure that American leadership in emerging technologies like AI reflects democratic values. The bipartisan amendments draw on findings from the Bennet-led Colorado Leadership in Artificial Intelligence Strategy Group, whose final report emphasized the need to proactively consider the implications of AI for privacy, civil liberties, and nondiscrimination to build and sustain trust in the technology. Earlier this year, Bennet also led nine Senate colleagues to write a letter asking the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission to clarify its authority to research the impacts of AI-driven hiring technologies and provide guidance for applicants and employers to combat algorithmic bias. 

The bill text is the first amendment is available HERE. The bill text is the second amendment is available HERE. The bill text is the third amendment is available HERE. Bennet and Sasse will also introduce them as standalone legislation.