Congress stood-up the National Security Commission on Artificial Intelligence (NSCAI) to make recommendations to the President and Congress “to advance the development of artificial intelligence [AI], machine learning, and associated technologies … to comprehensively address the national security and defense needs of the United States.” The 2019 National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA), Section 1051 further instructed the NSCAI to focus on issues including global competition, research and development, risks and ethical concerns.

NSCAI published interim reports in 2019 and 2020 and the executive branch and Congress adopted some of the reports’ recommendations in the William M. (Mac) Thornberry NDAA for Fiscal Year 2021. The recently published 756-page NSCAI Final Report comprehensively focuses on defense and the future technological standing of America, and includes precise recommendations. The NSCAI includes 15 commissioners, nominated by Congress and the executive branch, who represent a diverse group of technologists, business executives, academic leaders and national security professionals. The group was led by Chairman Eric Schmidt, the former CEO of Google, and Vice Chairman Robert Work, the former Deputy Secretary of Defense.

The primary conclusion is that “America is not prepared to defend or compete in the AI era,” but the Commission sets out an integrated strategic plan for partnerships between the government, academia, industry and America’s allies. The Report finds that “[e]ven large tech firms cannot be expected to compete with the resources of China or make the big investments the U.S. will need to stay ahead. We will need a hybrid approach meshing government and private-sector efforts to win the technology competition.”

Many recommended goals are targeted for completion by year-end through 2025, including AI readiness. The recommendations include a proposed budget of $40 billion for government spending, described as a “modest down payment on future breakthroughs.” Some of the key areas covered in the Report are:

  • the use of AI by U.S. adversaries, including the transformation of existing threats and the creation of new ones like “smart weapons”;
  • the procurement, use and integration of AI by the Department of Defense (DoD), including use of AI by the U.S. military in warfare (such as AI-enabled autonomous weapon systems) and U.S. policy regarding its use (e.g., only human beings may authorize the use of nuclear weapons);
  • the future of AI in the area of national intelligence and America’s national security mission;
  • proposals for required government resources, training and expertise in the areas of procurement, creation, use and confidence with AI and associated technology;
  • the interaction between American democratic values of privacy, civil liberties and civil rights and the use of AI in national security (e.g., the use of AI by adversaries to harvest data from Americans to create profiles of beliefs, behavior and biological data that may be used to manipulate citizens and thereby threaten our free and open American society);
  • proposed White House involvement in strategy for U.S. technological competitiveness and cooperation through a Technology Competitiveness Council;
  • a two-prong strategy for training and attracting STEM talent to the government and its contractors;
  • proposed investment in AI R&D and innovation infrastructure;
  • guidance on review and reform of U.S. IP laws for the safeguarding of U.S. national security interests;
  • proposed government action to rebuild domestic supply chain and fabrication for cutting-edge semiconductors and microelectronics;
  • the need to explore new means of protecting U.S. technologies;
  • a framework of participation with allies to partner in AI innovation and use; and
  • the formation of a broad strategy to sustain U.S. leadership in the development and use of AI as well as associated technologies.

The Report includes a breakout of funding recommendations by Cabinet departments, major agencies and program offices. Proposed recipients include DoD, DARPA, Department of Homeland Security, National Institute of Standards and Technology, and the Department of Health and Human Services. This is instructive for government contractors and partners who are interested in participating in this work.

McGuireWoods will continue to monitor these important recommendations as they are considered by the President and Congress. Our team is available to assist clients in navigating these comprehensive and leading-edge technologies and industries. In addition, new opportunities for contracts and grants in the areas of artificial intelligence, cybersecurity and national security are posted on, as well as agency websites.

About McGuireWoods’ Defense, National Security, and Government Contracts Team

The Defense, National Security, and Government Contracts team at McGuireWoods has decades of collective experience assisting contractors and subcontractors in government contracting, including the navigation of proposal submission and compliance issues. Based strategically in the Washington, D.C., area, our full-service practice leverages McGuireWoods’ strong defense and national security credentials at every step in the procurement process. Our attorneys counsel clients ranging from small businesses to the nation’s largest government contractors on issues arising under the Federal Acquisition Regulation and its agency-specific supplements, and our team regularly assists clients in negotiating significant federal contracts and contract modifications.

We also have the deep experience necessary to defend our clients’ interests in bid protests, in litigation with the government and other contractors, and in investigations and regulatory enforcement actions involving a wide range of federal and state agencies, inspectors general, and law enforcement personnel. We provide these services to clients operating in a broad variety of industries and sectors, including defense, national and homeland security, intelligence support, technology, construction, healthcare, aerospace and energy.