Bipartisan Senate bill would establish federal AI acquisition guardrails

A new bill from Sens. Gary Peters, D-Mich. and Thom Tillis, R-N.C., would require agencies to assess the risks of AI before acquiring it.
WASHINGTON, DC - JULY 21, 2022: Chairman Gary Peters (D-MI) listens as Transportation Security Administrator David Pekoske speaks during his confirmation hearing before the Senate Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs committee (Photo by Anna Moneymaker/Getty Images).

Federal agencies would have to assess the risks of artificial intelligence technologies before purchasing them and using them under a new bipartisan Senate bill. 

The legislation, among other things, would establish pilot programs to try out “more flexible, competitive purchasing practices” and require that government contracts for AI “to include safety and security terms for data ownership, civil rights, civil liberties and privacy, adverse incident reporting and other key areas,” according to a release.

“Artificial intelligence has the power to reshape how the federal government provides services to the American people for the better, but if left unchecked, it can pose serious risks,” Sen. Gary Peters, D-Mich., who sponsors the bill with Sen. Thom Tillis, R-N.C., said in a statement. “These guardrails will help guide federal agencies’ responsible adoption and use of AI tools, and ensure that systems paid for by taxpayers are being used safely and securely.”

According to the release, the Promoting Responsible Evaluation and Procurement to Advance Readiness for Enterprise-wide Deployment (PREPARED) for AI Act builds on a law passed in 2022 that required agencies to protect privacy and civil rights when purchasing AI. That legislation was also sponsored by Peters. President Joe Biden cited that law in a section of his executive order on AI that directed the Office of Management and Budget to take action on addressing federal AI acquisition. 


The OMB in March asked for input on AI procurement, including how the administration can promote competition and protect the government’s rights to access its data in those contracts. The administration has said it plans to take action on AI procurement later this year.

“As the role of artificial intelligence in the public and private sectors continues to grow, it is crucial federal agencies have a robust framework for procuring and implementing AI safely and effectively,” Tillis said in the release. 

A Senate Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee aide told FedScoop that Peters, who chairs the panel, plans a markup for the bill this summer. Once it’s passed by the panel, the aide said Peters “will keep all options on the table and pursue any path forward, whether that’s advancing the bill as a standalone or as part of a larger vehicle.” 

The bill has the support of Center for Democracy and Technology, Transparency Coalition, the AI Procurement Lab, and the Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers (IEEE), according to the release.

Peters and Tillis received praise from Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer, D-N.Y., who called the bill “a great example of both sides working together to legislate effectively on AI,” in Thursday floor remarks.


“This legislation will establish some of the first guidelines for the responsible procurement of AI by the federal government. The guidelines in this bill will be essential for the federal government to deploy AI so it protects people’s civil rights, prevents bias, and ensures people’s privacy,” Schumer said.

This story was updated June 13, 2024, with comments from Sen. Schumer.

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