Washington (July 18, 2023) – Senators Edward J. Markey (D-Mass.) and Ted Budd (R-N.C.), members of the Senate Health, Education, Labor, and Pensions Committee, today introduced the Artificial Intelligence and Biosecurity Risk Assessment Act and the Strategy for Public Health Preparedness and Response to Artificial Intelligence Threats Act, key pieces of legislation that would empower the federal government to better understand the public health security risks of artificial intelligence (AI) by directing the Assistant Secretary for Preparedness and Response of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) to conduct comprehensive risk assessments of AI and its advances. The announcement follows increasing warnings that AI may assist in the development of chemical and biological weapons, potentially allowing malicious actors to design dangerous weapons with limited technical knowledge.  

“The federal government has fallen behind before in addressing the grave risks posed by emerging technologies. We can’t make the same mistake with the technologies of our future,” said Senator Markey. “Either we prevent the risks now, or Americans will be left dealing with the consequences for decades to come. It is vital for us not only to understand the impacts of artificial intelligence on our health but to act with the urgency that this moment requires. Protection of the nation’s health security isn’t a Democrat or Republican issue. It is an issue of national security. Senator Budd and I are working together to ensure the federal government responds to these risks before it’s too late.”

“As AI grows in power and influence, we may face the real prospect of AI-generated threats like biological or chemical weapons,” said Senator Budd. “The federal government must not be caught flat-footed on these threats and should begin to prepare now. I’m glad to join with Senator Markey to lead the Senate to face potential AI threats head on.”

The Artificial Intelligence and Biosecurity Risk Assessment Act is endorsed by the Johns Hopkins Center for Health Security, the Nuclear Threat Initiative, the Federation of American Scientists, and the Institute for Progress.

“This bill represents a critical investment in our future safety and security. It embodies proactiveness and understanding that in today's fast-paced technological era, threats don't just come conventionally; they often emerge from new frontiers, in often unanticipated ways. By identifying and addressing these potential risks early on, we are not only ensuring our national security but also safeguarding public health. It is an affirmation of our commitment to stay vigilant and prepared for whatever the future holds,” said Dr. Divyansh Kaushik, Associate Director of Emerging Technologies and National Security at the Federation of American Scientists.

“This legislation will help our nation become more resilient to the emerging biological threat landscape, which due to the proliferation of dual-use life science technologies, includes engineered and accidental biothreats, as well as naturally occurring bioincidents,” said Alec Stapp, Co-founder of Institute for Progress.

Last month, Senators Markey and Gary Peters (D-Mich.) wrote a letter urging the U.S. Comptroller General to conduct a detailed technology assessment of the potential harms of generative AI and how to mitigate them.