A federal agency is pondering whether artificial intelligence might someday be used to help the government identify duplicative or overly burdensome federal rules that need to be cut back.
But officials are already hearing from skeptics who doubt AI will ever be powerful enough to wade through and understand the hundreds of thousands of pages of detailed federal rules.
The Administrative Conference of the United States (ACUS) is an independent federal agency that works to increase the efficiency and fairness of regulations. In early May, ACUS released a report it commissioned on how AI and other algorithmic tools might be used to conduct retrospective reviews of federal rules to improve them.
That report said AI might already be able to conduct “housekeeping” chores, such as finding typos or incorrect citations but said AI might also be trained to do much more.
The report quoted several federal staffers, most of whom were open to using AI for retrospective regulatory reviews.
But it also quoted groups affected by federal regulations, and they were much more tentative on how AI might be used. Most said that, at best, AI would be a tool for flagging rules that are ready to be reviewed, after which people would have to do the reviewing.
The report said another possible hurdle is whether government officials will want to use AI this way. The Trump administration introduced the use of AI in the regulatory process as a deregulatory tool in the Department of Health and Human Services and used AI in the Defense Department to help people understand the Pentagon’s vast network of rules.
The two “skeptics” said the Trump administration’s use of AI may have “poisoned the well” and could make it difficult for agencies to agree to explore AI further.
ACUS is recommending that federal agencies start by using AI to identify redundant federal rules and fixing small errors and by using open-source AI tools for this work. ACUS also said agencies should disclose when they use AI or other algorithmic tools in the process of reviewing regulations.
ACUS is set to meet in mid-June in Washington to decide whether to adopt the report and its recommendations. From there, Graboyes said ACUS would be working with federal agencies on implementing these recommendations, which he said was a start that could lead the agency to recommend more advanced work with AI tools in the years ahead.