Federal agencies do not comply with AI rules, audit shows

An audit of the US government departments and agencies revealed that most did not comply with artificial intelligence (AI) laws and regulations.

The Government Accountability Office (GAO), which oversees the operations of the government’s legislative branch, has examined the current and planned use of AI in 23 federal agencies.

It found that most are not equipped to “effectively” address AI risks and benefits. The GAO offered 35 recommendations to improve the situation.

“For example, there’s no government-wide guidance on how agencies should acquire and use AI. Without such guidance, agencies can’t consistently manage AI,” auditors said in the report.

Overall, about 1,200 current and planned AI use cases were reported by 20 agencies, while three reported none. NASA reported the highest number of use cases, followed by the Department of Commerce.

“Agency reported uses included analyzing data from cameras and radar to identify border activities, analyzing photographs from drones, and targeting of scientific specimens for planetary rovers,” GAO said.

The audit covered AI use in the 2022 fiscal year. Most of the reported cases were in the planning phase and not yet in production, or currently used, auditors said. Only in about 200 instances agencies reported that they were presently using AI.

Ten of the 23 agencies implemented all AI requirements specific to their organizations, according to GAO. Twelve implemented some but not all, and one – the Department of Defense – was exempt from requirements.

GAO said it was recommending 15 agencies to bring their AI use case inventories up to date and ensure the data aligns with guidance. It said that 19 agencies were to “fully” implement federal AI requirements.

“Given the rapid growth in capabilities and widespread adoption of AI, the federal government should have safeguards to manage AI's complexities, risks, and societal consequences,” it said.

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