Emerging Tech

Procurement chiefs are watching the spread of RPA

process automation (Zapp2Photo/Shutterstock.com) 

Robotics process automation use across government "is exploding," Joanie Newhart, associate administrator of acquisition workforce programs in the Office of Management and Budget's Office of Federal Procurement Policy, said at the Shared Services Leadership Coalition RPA conference.

Newhart said OFPP is closely watching how RPA is being leveraged by agencies such as Health and Human Services for acquisitions and the General Services Administration, which is using it to smooth out some of its internal processes such as sifting through data to find unpaid invoices.

The Department of Treasury, she said, is using RPA to do background reviews of contractor performance to help its contracting officers with their due diligence in awarding contracts.

Those kinds of RPA applications could transform federal acquisition in only a few years, as they take over repetitive internal tasks, according to Newhart. OFPP, she said, is planning to share some of its observations on RPA with agencies soon.

RPAs could also provide use cases for agencies to bring to the Technology Modernization Fund, a central revolving fund for IT projects, according to Bill Pratt, director of strategic technology management at the Department of Homeland Security.

"The TMF could be used for RPA if a business case is made for it," Newhart said in response to an audience question about the fund and how it works.

"RPA would be a good thing to use the TMF for" because it offers an effective and quick solution for some public facing services, Pratt said in an exchange with another audience member during the presentation. RPA and artificial intelligence, he said, can offer a quicker return on investment, as well as a more immediate modernization benefit for agencies.

About the Author

Mark Rockwell is a senior staff writer at FCW, whose beat focuses on acquisition, the Department of Homeland Security and the Department of Energy.

Before joining FCW, Rockwell was Washington correspondent for Government Security News, where he covered all aspects of homeland security from IT to detection dogs and border security. Over the last 25 years in Washington as a reporter, editor and correspondent, he has covered an increasingly wide array of high-tech issues for publications like Communications Week, Internet Week, Fiber Optics News, tele.com magazine and Wireless Week.

Rockwell received a Jesse H. Neal Award for his work covering telecommunications issues, and is a graduate of James Madison University.

Click here for previous articles by Rockwell. Contact him at mrockwell@fcw.com or follow him on Twitter at @MRockwell4.


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