Select Artificial Intelligence Clauses and Potential Investments in the FY 2023 House Draft NDAA

Published: August 17, 2022

Federal Market AnalysisArtificial Intelligence/Machine LearningBudgetDEFENSEForecasts and SpendingInformation TechnologyPolicy and Legislation

The draft House National Defense Authorization Act contains almost $94M in funding for AI/ML projects.

Two versions of the National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA) have been making their way through the House of Representatives and Senate this summer. Each bill will go through a long amendment process before they are reconciled into a single bill for Congress to vote on and send to the President for signature into law.

In recent years, the NDAA has proven to be the only piece of legislation that is somewhat immune to partisan politicking. Each year’s NDAA often also serves as a type of reflection of the technology priorities being discussed in the Department of Defense. It is therefore useful to track the issues being discussed in the bill’s clauses, even at this early stage of the process.

This year’s draft in the House is no exception to that rule. The House bill (H.R. 7900) contains a number of clauses related to different technologies, including artificial intelligence and machine learning, or AI/ML for short. Several clauses of interest to the contracting community are in the draft bill, as are a number of budget line items outlining certain investments. Today’s blog post describes a couple of these sections and provides a quick summary of the AI/ML-related investments that are currently being considered. It remains to be seen if these will survive the reconciliation process.

AI/ML-Related Sections

H. R. 7900 contains four sections dealing with AI/ML that cover everything from organizational oversight to software development. Here they are in order with comments as necessary.

Sec. 211: Clarification of Role of Senior Official with Principal Responsibility for Artificial Intelligence and Machine Learning. Instructs the Secretary of Defense (SECDEF) to assign an official with responsibility for overseeing AI R&D and to recruit “eminent experts” in science or engineering to support the activities of that official.

Analyst Comment – AI R&D is an area of great interest at the DOD. Expect more appropriations to go to it and for that funding to support cloud-based work.

Sec. 212: Role of the Chief Digital and AI Officer (CDAO) in Fostering Interoperability Among Joint Force Systems. Directs the SECDEF to have the DOD’s Chief Digital and Artificial Intelligence Officer to solicit feedback from the combatant commands and the Joint Staff concerning the lack of interoperability between warfighting systems and other technology, including software and data, which could potentially be resolved using mission integration software, including software designed to integrate heterogeneous systems across domains without upgrading hardware or changing existing system software. Also orders the allocation of funds to entities in the combatant commands and the Joint Staff to address such operational challenges.

Analyst Comment – Operationalizing AI/ML is turning out to be easier than achieving interoperability between the DOD’s various legacy systems. Interoperability is, however, absolutely necessary if the Joint All Domain Command and Control (JADC2) effort is to be successful. Selecting the CDAO to lead up this effort and stating a preference for a software-based solution suggests that the House is interested in having DOD research if machine learning can provide an answer to the interoperability challenge.

AI/ML-Related Investments

For more insight into federal investment in AI/ML check out Deltek's Federal Artificial Intelligence Landscape, 2023 report, which analyzes the legislation, strategies leadership, research and spending patterns shaping the federal AI marketplace.