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This week, the U.S. Department of Commerce announced that it’ll form a committee to advise federal agencies on AI research and developments. Called the National Artificial Intelligence Advisory Committee and supported by the National Institute of Standards and Technology and the White House’s National AI Initiative Office, it’ll focus on a range of issues related to AI, including the current state of U.S. competitiveness and how AI can enhance opportunities for different geographic regions.

The committee’s formation comes as federal spending on AI technologies ramps up during the pandemic. According to Deltek’s GovWin, identifiable federal spending on AI rose to nearly $1 billion in 2020, making it one of the fastest-growing emerging tech investment areas. While that figure fell short of estimates — Bloomberg Government projected that the U.S. would pour over $6 billion in AI-related R&D projects in 2021 — it’s a sign of renewed enthusiasm from the government in backing technologies that could yield $13 trillion in economic benefits by 2030.

Former Google CEO Eric Schmidt is among those who’ve urged lawmakers to bolster funding in AI space while incentivizing public-private partnerships to develop AI applications across government agencies. The National Security Commission on Artificial Intelligence estimates the U.S. needs to spend $32 billion over the next few years to win the AI race with China, among other rivals. To achieve this, President Joe Biden has proposed spending 2% of the U.S.’s total economic output — or GPD — on science, up from around 0.7%. That would equate to roughly $418 billion at last year’s GDP level, up from about $146 billion.

The GovWin report shows that the federal government isn’t close to approaching Biden’s target. But it reveals that AI spending across agencies is on the rise generally, up 50% compared with 2018. Moreover, U.S. AI spending is growing at agencies even without a primarily scientific mission, the report reveals — such as the Departments of Justice, Transportation, and State. And AI capabilities including robotic process automation are increasingly being used by the government for research, surveillance, trend analysis, and vaccine development.

Increasing investments

Between 2018 and 2020, U.S. government agencies spent a total of $1.9 billion in…

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