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White House Asks for $1B for Non-Defense AI, Including Health


Earmarks include healthcare programs at NIH and AHRQ.

Trump signs AI executive order in Oval Office in February 2019. (Courtesy of the White House)

President Donald Trump signs AI executive order in Oval Office in February 2019. (Courtesy of the White House)

Nearly $1 billion in artificial intelligence (AI) research funding was announced by the White House this week.

The request for non-defense AI funding coincided with an AI summit hosted by the Trump Administration, featuring two healthcare-specific “case studies” of how the future use of American AI is implemented.

“Today, we focus our attention on how all of these pillars of our American AI Initiative can also drive transformation within the federal government itself,” said Michael Kratsios, the chief technology officer of the United States. “Initiatives in AI R&D, data, and workforce can all enhance the way government functions and delivers services.”

The $973.5 million supplement to the 2020 budget request includes $202.5 million for the National Institutes of Health (NIH), the second largest total. (The largest is the National Science Foundation, at $487.6 million). Mentioned in the NIH goals are research project grants, and specifically mHealth programs for low- or middle- income countries.

Also included are Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality (AHRQ) programs including learning health systems grants, health IT safety grants, consumer IT grants for patient-facing technologies, clinical-decision support tools, and a patient-reported outcome initiative (based on the use of Fast Healthcare Interoperability Resource standards).

The summit featured two healthcare case studies in the use of AI from the NIH and from the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS).

Patricia Flatley Brennan, Ph.D., R.N., the director of the National Library of Medicine, spoke about the use of natural language processing at NIH. The AI technology saves time in the grant application referral process, she said. Additionally, AI and machine learning can automate indexing for PubMed.

Charles Keckler, J.D., the associate deputy secretary of HHS, presented how the use of AI can identify and cut “outdated, burdensome, and duplicative regulations, with the potential of greatly reducing human workload in a highly labor-intensive process,” according to a summary of the summit proceedings.

“The Department of Health and Human Services is using artificial intelligence to analyze outdated, burdensome, and duplicative regulations—allowing us to more effectively cut the red tape holding our nation back,” added Kratsios, in his remarks.

The summit also included a panel featuring Ivanka Trump, advisor to the president, and Margaret Weichert, the deputy director for Management at the Office of Management and Budget and Acting Director of the Office of Personnel Management.

Breakout sessions followed, including federal agencies ranging from the Department of Homeland Security, the Department of Labor, the Department of Justice, and the National Science Foundation, among others.

The nearly $1 billion is not enough to keep pace with the investments of China and other countries, executives from Intel and Nvidia told The Wall Street Journal this week.

Trump signed an executive order in February which created the “American AI Initiative” with a stated goal of “protecting our AI advantage.”

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