U.S. Plan for "Responsible Military Use of AI" Constructive but Inadequate

For Immediate Release: Feb. 16, 2023

Media Contacts: Michael Klare, senior visiting fellow, [email protected]; Shannon Bugos, senior policy analyst, [email protected]

WASHINGTON, DC— Today, the United States proposed a "Political Declaration on Responsible Military Use of Artificial Intelligence and Autonomy" during a conference on the issue in Europe.

While a positive signal, the declaration ultimately proves an inadequate response to the militarization of AI and the risks posed by lethal autonomous weapons, according to experts at the independent, nongovernmental Arms Control Association (ACA).

“The motivation for the U.S. framework stems from the deliberations at the expert group meetings convened by the Convention on Certain Conventional Weapons (CCW), where a significant number of states have voiced support for a binding international ban on autonomous weapons capable of killing humans," notes Shannon Bugos, a senior policy analyst at ACA.

In October 2022, the United States joined a diverse, cross-regional group of United Nations member states, led by Austria, on a joint declaration that expressed concern about “new technological applications, such as those related to autonomy in weapons systems.”

"However, the United States and other states with technologically advanced militaries have resisted negotiations on a legally binding instrument to regulate behavior at the CCW, which operates by consensus,” Bugos notes. “Many other states–including Austria, Argentina, Brazil, Mexico, New Zealand, and Spain–have proposed negotiations on a legally binding, enforceable agreement to ban lethal autonomous weapons altogether.”

Michael T. Klare, a senior fellow with ACA, concluded that "The U.S. principles on responsible behavior, however comprehensive and commendable, do not make up formal rules or regulations, and are therefore not readily enforceable. This means that any state (including the United States) can endorse the declaration and claim to be abiding by its principles, but then violate them with impunity.”

Klare is the author of the new ACA report Assessing the Dangers: Emerging Military Technologies and Nuclear (In)Stability that assesses the risks and dangers of new military technologies, including AI and autonomous weapons. The report also provides a framework strategy for curtailing the indiscriminate weaponization of emerging technologies. 

"Principles are nice in theory but will not adequately protect us from the deployment and use of autonomous weapons systems capable of killing humans, possibly in an abusive and indiscriminate manner," Klare argues.

"Given the risks posed by autonomous weapons systems and AI, we continue to urge the United States to act more responsibly and call upon all governments represented at the CCW to support the initiation of negotiations on autonomous weapons, and to help craft an outcome ensuring continued human control over weapons of war and decisions to employ lethal force," said Daryl G. Kimball, executive director of the Arms Control Association.