2020 White House Guidelines on AI Technologies

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On January 7, 2020, the White House issued a long-awaited set of guidelines in a draft memorandum, entitled “Guidance for Regulation of Artificial Intelligence Applications,” detailing how federal agencies should use and develop Artificial Intelligence (AI) technologies.

There, Acting Director of the White House Office of Management and Budget (OMB), Russell T. Vought, set forth ten principles for the stewardship of AI applications that agencies should take into consideration when formulating regulatory and non-regulatory approaches to the “design, development, deployment, and operation of AI applications, both general and sector-specific” calling for:

  • Public trust in AI,
  • Public participation,
  • Scientific integrity and information quality,
  • Risk assessment and management,
  • Benefits and costs,
  • Flexibility,
  • Fairness and non-discrimination,
  • Disclosure and transparency,
  • Safety and security, and
  • Interagency coordination.

Further, another theme of the memorandum is regulation, advising that in managing risks and encouraging AI growth “an agency must first identify the problem it seeks to address and consider whether regulation is justified or if non-regulatory approaches are appropriate.” Additionally, the memorandum states that a regulatory analysis should begin with a “clear explanation of the need for the regulatory action, including a description of the problem that the agency seeks to address.” With AI, “agencies should explain whether the action is intended to address a market failure (e.g., asymmetric information) or address another factor, such as protecting privacy or civil liberties, preventing unlawful discrimination, or advancing the United States’ economic and national security.”

The memorandum also encourages non-regulatory approaches, which include: sector-specific policy frameworks, pilot programs and experiments, as well as voluntary consensus standards, opining that agencies “should consider relying on private-sector conformity assessment programs and activities, before proposing either regulations or compliance programs.”


The Trump Administration has made AI development a priority stating that “the deployment of AI holds the promise to improve safety, fairness, welfare, transparency, and other social goals.” According to the 2019 Executive Order on Maintaining American Leadership in Artificial Intelligence, “the policy of the United States Government [is] to sustain and enhance the scientific, technological, and economic leadership position of the United States in AI.”

On this note, the Executive Order directs the Federal government to “pursue five pillars for advancing AI: (1) promote sustained AI R&D investment, (2) unleash Federal AI resources, (3) remove barriers to AI innovation, (4) empower the American worker with AI-focused education and training opportunities, and (5) promote an international environment that is supportive of American AI innovation and its responsible use.”

Investing in AI Research and Development (R&D)

AI “investments will strengthen and leverage America’s unique and vibrant R&D ecosystem of industry, academia, and government, and prioritize Federal AI spending on cutting-edge ideas that can directly benefit the American people.”

Unleashing AI Resources

“The initiative directs agencies to make Federal data, models, and computing resources more available to America’s AI R&D experts, researchers, and industries to foster public trust and increase the value of these resources to AI R&D experts, while maintaining the safety, security, civil liberties, privacy, and confidentiality protections.”

Setting AI Governance Standards

“Federal agencies will foster public trust in AI systems by establishing guidance for AI development and use across different types of technology and industrial sectors.”

Building the AI Workforce

The “AI Initiative calls for agencies to prioritize fellowship and training programs to help American workers gain AI-relevant skills through apprenticeships, skills programs, fellowships, and education in computer science and other growing Science, Technology, Engineering, and Math (STEM) fields.”

International Engagement and Protecting our AI Advantage

“Federal agencies will also develop and implement an action plan to protect the advantage of the United States in AI and technology critical to United States national and economic security interests against strategic competitors and foreign adversaries.”

According to DLA Piper, “In a January 6 call with journalists, Michael Kratsios, Chief Technology Officer of the United States, called the new initiative the ‘first of its kind’ − the first ‘binding document’ for how government agencies will regulate the emerging AI technology with all its attendant benefits, opportunities, and risks.” The European Commission is expected to announce its AI technologies regulatory plan in the coming months as well.

angelahabibi Experienced Associate with a Doctoral Degree in Law, an LL.M. specialization in Intellectual Property Law and a legal acumen in financial technology, international regulatory compliance (KYC/AML), on and off-shore legal bodies, acquisition diligence, export compliance, privacy, technology licensing and AI/blockchain in the U.S. and Gulf region.

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