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CIO Hysen Named First DHS Chief AI Officer as New Policies Released on AI Acquisition and Facial Recognition Technology

Chief Information Officer Eric Hysen was announced as the Department of Homeland Security’s first Chief AI Officer today as the department unveiled a pair of new policies crafted by the DHS Artificial Intelligence Task Force.

The new DHS policy statement focuses on the acquisition of AI and machine learning technologies by DHS components and ensuring that the AI-enabled systems conform to the Constitution and civil rights protections. The directive simultaneously released by the department today is centered on facial recognition and face capture technology, stating that DHS will review all current uses and evaluate systems for unintended bias.

Homeland Security Secretary Alejandro Mayorkas announced the creation of the DHS task force in his State of Homeland Security address in April. In March, he tasked the Homeland Security Advisory Council with studying the intersection of AI and homeland security; the council has formed two subcommittees on how DHS can best leverage AI in critical missions and on how DHS should confront potential nefarious uses of AI by adversaries.  The secretary vowed when creating the task force that DHS “will lead in the responsible use of AI to secure the homeland and in defending against the malicious use of this transformational technology,” ensuring that “our use of AI is rigorously tested to avoid bias and disparate impact, and is clearly explainable to the people we serve.”

Hysen will continue in his CIO role along with serving as chief AI officer. He was named co-chair of the task force in upon its creation along with DHS Science and Technology Under Secretary Dimitri Kusnezov.

Hysen told senators at a Senate Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Emerging Threats and Spending Oversight Subcommittee hearing in June that “AI presents a significant opportunity in modernizing our systems as well as better harnessing AI to advance our mission delivery.”

“But the risk of adversarial use of AI is real as is the risk of disparate bias or unintended disparate impact from our use of AI,” Hysen added. The DHS task force “is looking at exactly those questions – we are still early in our work but are taking this work very seriously and have it as a major focus for the year to come.”

Policy Statement 139-06, “Acquisition and Use of Artificial Intelligence and Machine Learning by DHS Components,” states that DHS “will only acquire and use AI in a manner that is consistent with the Constitution and all other applicable laws and policies, including those addressing privacy, civil rights, and civil liberties, and only where AI adoption improves mission effectiveness” and “will not collect, use, or disseminate data used in AI activities, or establish Al-enabled systems that make or support decisions, based on the inappropriate consideration of race, ethnicity, gender, national origin, religion, sexual orientation, gender identity, age, nationality, medical condition, or disability” or “enable improper systemic, indiscriminate, or large-scale monitoring, surveillance, or tracking of individuals.”

A DHS AI Risk Management Framework will be developed “to evaluate all use cases early in their life cycle” and stakeholders “will provide advice and oversight support to higher risk use cases, as appropriate, to assist the implementers in the mitigation of the identified risks.” The department also vows to “protect AI technologies from cyber-attacks and malicious degradation of algorithmic functions” while the DHS Information Technology Security Program “will update and develop additional security requirements, as appropriate, to protect AI technologies against novel cybersecurity threats and risks introduced by new applications of these technologies.”

Hysen, Kusnezov, Chief Procurement Officer Paul Courtney, Officer for Civil Rights and Civil Liberties Shoba Sivaprasad Wadhia, Chief Privacy Officer Mason Clutter, and Under Secretary for Strategy, Policy, and Plans Rob Silvers will establish an AI Policy Working Group tasked with making recommendations to Mayorkas, in coordination with the AI Task Force, “to ensure the development of an enduring governance policy and framework for long term, successful, responsible and trustworthy adoption of AI at DHS.” Components will subsequently consult with the AI Policy Working Group “to receive advice on mitigating identified risks (including but not limited to privacy, civil rights and civil liberties risks) and to support policy development.”

A formal Directive and Instruction on AI/ML is due within 12 months. Upon department approval, DHS will then “implement any new procedures devised under the contemplated formal policy documents and implement relevant training on those procedures.”

Directive 026-11, “Use of Face Recognition and Face Capture Technologies,” falls under the responsibility of the Under Secretary for Management, currently filled in an acting role by Deputy Under Secretary Randolph D. “Tex” Alles, with the CIO overseeing “acquisition, management, and implementation” of facial recognition and face capture technologies — approving them for use in coordination with the pertinent component leader. Kusnezov will be responsible for the scientific, engineering, and analytical support while developing accuracy and performance metric and procedures for testing and evaluating the technologies. Silvers will lead the development of department-wide strategies and policies regarding the use of these technologies and ensure compliance.

The directive stresses that “DHS does not use FR or FC technologies to profile, target, or discriminate against any individual solely for exercising their Constitutional rights or to enable systemic, indiscriminate, or wide-scale monitoring, surveillance, or tracking” and adds that facial recognition technologies used for identification “may not be used as the sole basis for law or civil enforcement related actions, especially when used as investigative leads.”

“If within DHS’s or a Component’s mission, exigent circumstances require an FR or FC technology for a new use, the respective Component Head requests an expedited provisional 30-day approval in writing by the DHS CIO with notice to the Under Secretary for Strategy, Policy, and Plans, the Chief Privacy Officer and the Office for Civil Rights and Civil Liberties,” the directive states. “Any use of FR or FC technology provisionally approved by the DHS CIO under exigent circumstances complies with the requirements of this Directive and accompanying Instruction and initiates compliance actions within 30-days of provisional approval.”

Hysen said today that the new policies “will ensure that the department’s use of AI is free from discrimination and in full compliance with the law, ensuring that we retain the public’s trust” as DHS utilizes the technology for missions including combating fentanyl trafficking, strengthening supply chain security, countering child sexual exploitation, and protecting critical infrastructure.

“Artificial intelligence is a powerful tool we must harness effectively and responsibly,” Mayorkas said. “Our department must continue to keep pace with this rapidly evolving technology, and do so in a way that is transparent and respectful of the privacy, civil rights, and civil liberties of everyone we serve.”

“I am grateful that Eric Hysen, who already co-chairs our Artificial Intelligence Task Force, has agreed to serve as our department’s first Chief AI Officer, providing the leadership and experience necessary to harness AI’s enormous potential and ensure its responsible use across DHS,” Mayorkas added.