White House’s Kent previews federal automation policy in IT modernization talk

The forthcoming policy will "seek to align the level of inspection, oversight, data examination and model control with the consequences of the outcomes."
Kent IT modernization 2018
Suzette Kent delivers a keynote at the 2018 IT Modernization Summit. (FedScoop)

Federal CIO Suzette Kent teased an upcoming Office of Management and Budget policy on automated technologies as part of her preview of the administration’s 2019 goals for IT modernization during a keynote Thursday at FedScoop’s IT Modernization Summit.

About a week after celebrating the one-year anniversary of the President’s Management Agenda, which explicitly includes a focus on IT modernization, Kent said year two is going to be all about building on those foundations. “There were some amazing things that were accomplished last year,” she said. “But what’s in store for this year is even more exciting.”

The White House Office of Management and Budget wants agencies to have clear guidance on using popular emerging automation technologies like robotic process automation (RPA), machine learning and artificial intelligence, she said. “We will develop an initial release of a policy for the use of automated technologies by federal civilian agencies,” Kent said.

The forthcoming policy will “seek to align the level of inspection, oversight, data examination and model control with the consequences of the outcomes.” This, Kent suggested, will allow the federal government to build policy “infrastructure” around low-level automation like RPA that can, theoretically, be applied down the road to what she called “some of the more powerful technologies.”


“We’re leveraging the learnings from both private sector … and some of the early movers in the federal government,” Kent said. There’s a “massive opportunity” for the government to learn via hands-on pilots, she added, so OMB will be “very aggressive” in encouraging agencies to “just get started.”

Also coming up this year: a continued “relentless focus” on cybersecurity, a continued move to the cloud for agencies and a continued emphasis on user-centered digital services for citizens.

“2019 is going to be a great year for citizen and mission results delivered through enabling technology advances,” Kent said in closing.

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