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White House Report Increases Focus on AI

By Dale Oak   •

On September 10th, the White House National Science and Technology Council released a report on the Networking and Information Technology Research and Development (NITRD) Program. This supplement to the President’s FY20 Budget identifies actual FY18 funding levels, estimated FY19 funding, and requested FY20 funding for priority federal agency information technology (IT) research and development (R&D). 

Federal NITRD spending outlined in this report is summarized in Chart I. The Trump FY20 request for this spending is $5.5 billion, a $195 million (3.4%) decrease from the FY19 level. We estimate that as a result of the Bipartisan Budget Act of 2019 (BBA19), the FY20 Trump request for nondefense NITRD spending is lower, and the request for defense NITRD spending is higher, than what Congress is likely to approve. 

This year’s NITRD Program report includes, for the first time, data on agency artificial intelligence (AI) spending. The analysis of federal AI spending furthers the Administration’s policy of prioritizing federal AI R&D, as outlined by Executive Order 13859, “Maintaining American Leadership in Artificial Intelligence” (February 11, 2019). 

As shown in Chart II, the FY20 Trump request for AI for nondefense agencies is $973.5 million. The NITRD report provides AI data only for FY20, the first year for which AI data have been collected from agencies. The data are also limited to nondefense since defense agencies do not release AI budget details, although the Chief Technology Officer of the United States, Michael Kratsios, stated in a September 10th speech that DoD investments through the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA), Project Maven, the Joint AI Center, and other programs total nearly $1 billion. 

The NITRD report classifies funding into 11 Program Component Areas (PCAs), which are shown in Chart III on page 7. These PCAs reflect the principal subject areas under which agencies perform activities coordinated through the NITRD Program. 

AI R&D has its own PCA beginning this year, which the NITRD report says will increase the focus on U.S. leadership in AI technologies. AI activities also crosscut other PCAs, and agencies identify funding amounts in those PCAs for inclusion in the AI R&D total. For example, the Department of Energy (DoE), Office of Science includes the following amounts in its total FY20 AI R&D budget request of $119.5 million: $71 million for the AI R&D PCA, $38.7 million for the High-Capability Computing Infrastructure and Applications PCA, and $9.8 million for the Enabling R&D for High-Capability Computing Systems PCA. 

As an appendix to the NITRD report, the National Science and Technology Council also released the FY2020 Federal Cybersecurity R&D Strategic Plan Implementation Roadmap. This Roadmap summarizes the implementation of the 2016 Federal Cybersecurity Research and Development Strategic Plan. It lists federal cybersecurity R&D projects and programs that agencies carry out in FY19, FY20, and beyond in each of four strategic defensive elements: deter, protect, detect, and adapt. For example, the Roadmap shows that the Office of the Secretary of Defense “Autonomous Self-Securing Cyber Systems” program is active in the protect, detect, and adapt defensive elements.