The motives are many
Greed, Fear, Narcissism & Self-promotion, Nationalism, Hubris, American Exceptionalism, a craven and ultimately doomed desire to remain post-WWII top dog and for some the wish to be at the trough of government largesse (a trough filled with money that doesn't exist) -- all can be detected in the quotes. There sure is interest to Do The Right Thing too, so let's not be too negative.
Ultimately, this is exactly the same show as the run during the start of Japans "5th Generation Project" in the early 80s when AI "was just a decade away" (I think the lead-in images were styled the same as the one see here at El Reg).
A Great Nipponese Leap Forward would be based on powerful Logic Programming systems (actually back then, only Prolog - Logic Programming has been extended by a large set of new tools and logics since). Special hardware would greatly increase the LIPS (logical inference per second) number and open up new opportunities in all technological areas.
US persons of influence heard about this, possibly read some books making great predictions ("The 5th Generation" by Feigenbaum & McCorduck for example), panicked a bit, asked industry and academia, allocated money and voilà - a "Strategic Computing Initiative" was born.
A Great American Leap Forward would be based on powerful LISP systems (Americans didn't like the Japanese-European logic programming idea all that much, LISP was invented here, so let's take that. Evidently Functional Programming has been extended by a large set of new tools, principles and languages since. We even have types now!). Special hardware would greatly increase the beta-reductions per second number and open up new opportunities in all technological areas.
In the end, Japan's 5th generation passed away quietly. Some of the developments were used in industry, especially in the hardware domain, a lot of papers were published, and the consensus seems to be that MITI money mainly subsidized the training of new engineers and academics, and not necessarily in AI technology either.
The US SCI project quickly gave up on LISP & Stuff as the the goals were recognized as far out. It reoriented itself quietly to develop supercomputing, hardware, communications and defense-related stuff (basically using a bait-and-switch manoeuver). The products of this would be used with some success during Gulf War I and that was that.
Europeans had the more civilian ESPRIT set of projects, not necessarily in computing but in science & techology in general, about which I don't know much.
Amazingly I can't remember even a peep from the Soviet Union, I guess they were still trying to get past the "bourgeois science" stigma affixed to Cybernetics and trying to roll out copies of IBM 370 as well as build up the cross-country networks that they were building at the time. They were probably also busy with the repercussions of Chernobyl.
So here we are again. All the talk about "demon AI" is pap, one would think the king had called in the realm's magicians to perform a particularly dangerous summoning. I know that the literature is full of AIs going rogue in quasi-supernatural ways, but the world just doesn't work that way (Frank Herbert's "Destination Void" comes to mind. It wasn't even that good fiction.)
Strategic Defense Initiative
Fifth generation computer
And especially this book which is floating around on the 'net (or you can get it used for cheap):
Strategic Computing: DARPA and the Quest for Machine Intelligence, 1983-1993