Federal CIO Says OMB is ‘Working Aggressively’ on Automation Policy

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The agency is tapping some of the government’s top scientific investigators to help produce the new strategy.

Federal Chief Information Officer Suzette Kent offered insight Thursday into how the Office of Management and Budget is preparing a new policy to govern agencies' use of automated technology.

“The automated technology policy is one of the things that requires a lot of discussion with the [Federal CIO Council] across the various agencies, because the missions are different, the controls are different,” Kent told reporters in a closed-door meeting at the Labor Department’s Tech Day in Washington.

Though she didn’t set a timeline for when the policy might be unveiled, Kent said it’s in the pipeline and OMB is “working aggressively” to produce it.

She noted that the Defense Department and the Intelligence Community already have their own policies in place around automated tech, through which processes or procedures are performed with little human assistance.

“So we are looking at what makes sense to harmonize at the top and what makes sense to leave as agency-specific decisions,” Kent said. “So there is a lot of conversation around that.”

Kent also said that OMB has tapped into some of the nation’s “scientific agencies” that have been working with automation for years and are igniting discussions with some of those agencies’ primary investigators and model examiners. She noted it’s necessary to involve experts, as some of the agencies have yet to pursue the budding discipline.

“It’s been a phenomenal conversation,” Kent said.

She also said that while it’s been pervasive in industry for years, there is a lot of fresh excitement around robotic process automation within the government because agencies are realizing that automating manual tasks frees up the federal workforce to go do other, less tedious things.

“It’s fairly inexpensive as far as technologies go and our teams can pick it up really quickly,” she said.

Kent noted further that as RPA works, the tech “creates its own audit trail,” which helps agencies reduce their margins for error.     

“I am incredibly excited about artificial intelligence, that whole spectrum and what we can do to harness the federal data,” she said.