White House: 5 Percent of Government Jobs Could Be ‘Automated Entirely’

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The Office of Personnel Management will look at how to retrain the employees affected.

The Trump administration sees a critical role for automation in its long-term goal of building a smaller, more efficient federal workforce, according to a White House report.

The Office of Personnel Management estimates automation could cut workloads for 60 percent of federal employees by about 30 percent and render nearly 5 percent of government jobs completely obsolete. In total, existing technology has the potential to automate nearly half of all work activities, according to the Federal Workforce Priorities Report.

Published as a supplement to the President’s Management Agenda, the report lays out a handful of ways technology could help government develop “a workforce for the 21st century,” and details some initial timelines for the effort. OPM, the Defense Department and Office of Management and Budget are charged with spearheading the larger workforce modernization strategy.

By the first quarter of fiscal 2019, the White House requires OPM and OMB to identify and run pilot programs in three areas where automation could make the biggest impact, according to its action plan. By the second quarter of 2019, the agencies must determine the ways automation will impact federal employees and highlight skills they would need in the future.

OPM will simultaneously run a pilot to assess how best to reskill employees affected by automation and other technological changes.

“Although the impact of machine assistance varies by occupation, the use of automation has the potential to provide employees with time to focus on more important work,” the action plan said. “Reskilling and redeployment strategies may be required to shift staff time to higher value duties.”

Beyond automation, the report also charged agencies to explore tech solutions for measuring human capital and speed up online recruiting and hiring.

The government has historically had a difficult time attracting young employees—particularly for tech roles—which many attribute in part to lengthy hiring timelines at federal agencies. To shorten the process, OPM is tasked with building an automation tool to help managers sort through applications and build an employee digital record system to enable faster transfers between agencies.

OPM also called on agencies to consider cultural changes that could help attract more young talent to federal agencies, including increasing work-life balance and putting in place programs to help employees further develop skills.