The United States government uses artificial intelligence in the military, intelligence, and law enforcement to help mitigate potential threats.
However, the use of machine learning technology largely remains unregulated by the government, although year-on-year spending on AI government contracts continues to increase.
Read below to find out how AI can potentially transform government agencies and impact US democracy.
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The Federal Bureau of Investigations, the top law enforcement agency in the United States, has used artificial intelligence to assist in crime prevention and intelligence gathering. For example, AI can use facial data to accurately identify individuals who are wanted or have been involved in a federal crime. The FBI has developed AI technology known as Next Generation Identification, which can use images from the Interstate Photo System to identify suspects who are wanted for criminal activities.
Moreover, the FBI has used AI technology to assist in other law enforcement investigations, such as fingerprint identification, DNA matching, cybersecurity, and surveillance. In the coming years, the FBI will likely expand its current usage of AI in other areas of crime prevention.
Artificial intelligence has multiple benefits to the Central Intelligence Agency, including helping the intelligence organization uncover national security threats, stopping terrorist attacks, combating foreign cyber-attacks, increasing surveillance capabilities, and predicting social unrest in foreign countries. Machine learning programs, such as Palantir Defense, offer the CIA the ability to scan hundreds of thousands of email data from around the world to predict if an attack is likely to occur.
Over the last several decades, the nature of warfare has changed from traditional on-the-ground troop battles to the use of long-range air and missile attacks along with drone attacks against guerilla forces. Therefore, artificial intelligence may assist the U.S. military in various duties on the battlefield, such as using satellites to communicate potential threats in border areas and drones to identify possible attacks on military facilities before they occur.
As artificial intelligence continues to develop and take a more prominent role in society, the technology could significantly impact future U.S. elections and democracy. For example, AI can use large data samples to target specific audiences with targeted advertising and marketing, which is crucial to political campaigns at the state, local, and federal levels. For example, in states or counties where a candidate or campaign needs to target a specific set of independent swing voters, they can use the data provided by machine learning to appeal to specific voting blocs.
Microdata that data brokers collect provide insights into voter viewing and purchasing habits. Political campaigns can use this information to fine-tune their messaging to appeal directly to that group based on information provided by machine learning technology services. Therefore, campaigns will be able to shift their messaging effectively during elections.
Outside real-time data provided by AI, the technology can also benefit campaigns looking to make advertisements that appeal to specific audiences. For example, artificial intelligence can generate videos with specific instructions to push a political message. Recently, the Republican National Committee released an AI-generated campaign video that depicted a dystopian future in which President Joe Biden won the election in 2024. The AI technology used in the video produced images and videos that showed Chinese forces taking over Taiwan, illegal immigrants coming across the U.S. border, and urban crime.
The operational effectiveness of the U.S. government has the potential to be completely revolutionized with the development and further usage of artificial intelligence. Machine learning could automate many mundane tasks for various government agencies, such as the post office, as well as manage supply chains and make predictions of the needs of citizens based on data collection.
One of the main benefits of using artificial intelligence in the daily tasks of the government would be its ability to improve public services while reducing waste and automating jobs typically completed by bureaucrats. Machine learning also can boost citizen engagement and help prevent fraud. Processes that would typically take a long time for a response could be streamlined and offer a more personalized experience for citizens.
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The exact dollar amount that the U.S. government has spent on artificial intelligence is believed to have been approximately $3.3 billion during the fiscal year of 2022, according to a study published in April 2023 by Stanford University. That number will likely increase in the coming years as private technology ventures continue investing and pushing for machine learning development.
Previously, the government spent nearly $2.7 billion on AI contracts, with the Pentagon accounting for most of the increased spending from 2021 to 2022. Total recorded spending on artificial intelligence started in 2017 and has since grown by nearly 2.5 times when it started at $1.3 billion. Continued government spending on AI year-on-year has grown by more than $600 million annually.
Artificial intelligence has the potential to bring significant reform to the operational effectiveness of the government, law enforcement, and intelligence organizations. However, machine learning has not progressed to the point where it has self-actualized and can make decisions without a human control factor. It is not likely that AI will take over the government.