Raimondo announces picks for U.S. AI Safety Institute’s director, CTO

National Economic Council adviser Elizabeth Kelly will lead NIST’s new AI group, while Elham Tabassi is on board as chief technology officer.
Commerce Secretary Gina Raimondo speaks during the daily press briefing at the White House on Sept. 6, 2022, in Washington, D.C. (Photo by Kevin Dietsch/Getty Images)

The U.S. AI Safety Institute will be led by a key White House National Economic Council adviser, and an artificial intelligence official at the National Institute for Standards and Technology will also join the new group’s executive leadership team, Commerce Secretary Gina Raimondo announced Wednesday.

Elizabeth Kelly, special assistant to the president for economic policy at the NEC, will serve as the inaugural director of the USAISI, established under the NIST umbrella by President Joe Biden’s AI executive order. 

Kelly, who with the NEC helps guide the Biden administration’s financial regulation and technology policy, including AI, will be charged with “providing executive leadership, management, and oversight of the AI Safety Institute and coordinating with other AI policy and technical initiatives throughout the Department, NIST, and across the government,” per a Commerce Department press release.

Kelly was described in the release as a “driving force” behind Biden’s AI EO, taking the lead on domestic efforts to spur competition, protect privacy and back workers and consumers. 


The AI Safety Institute’s “ambitious mandate to develop guidelines, evaluate models, and pursue fundamental research will be vital to addressing the risks and seizing the opportunities of AI,” Kelly said in a statement. “I am thrilled to work with the talented NIST team and the broader AI community to advance our scientific understanding and foster AI safety. While our first priority will be executing the tasks assigned to NIST in President Biden’s executive order, I look forward to building the Institute as a long-term asset for the country and the world.”

The USAISI’s chief technology officer will be Elham Tabassi, NIST’s chief AI adviser. Tabassi led the development of NIST’s AI Risk Management Framework and also served as the associate director for emerging technologies in the agency’s Information Technology Laboratory. 

In her new role as CTO, Tabassi will oversee critical technical programs and “be responsible for shaping efforts at NIST and with the broader AI community to conduct research, develop guidance, and conduct evaluations of AI models including advanced large language models in order to identify and mitigate AI safety risks,” the release stated.

“The USAISI will advance American leadership globally in responsible AI innovations that will make our lives better,” Tabassi said in a statement. “We must have a firm understanding of the technology, its current and emerging capabilities, and limitations. NIST is taking the lead to create the science, practice, and policy of AI safety and trustworthiness. I am thrilled to be part of this remarkable team, leading the effort to develop science-based, and empirically backed guidelines and standards for AI measurement and policy.”

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