RPA takes hold in agency procurement

As it takes over repetitive internal tasks, robotic process automation could transform federal acquisition in only a few years, an OMB exec says.

Robotics process automation "is exploding" across government, according to Joanie Newhart, associate administrator of acquisition workforce programs in the Office of Management and Budget's Office of Federal Procurement Policy.

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Speaking at the Shared Services Leadership Coalition RPA conference, Newhart said OFPP is monitoring how agencies are using RPA, especially when it comes to procurement.  The Department of  Health and Human Services is piloting RPA for the closeout phase of acquisitions, and the General Services Administration is using it to smooth out some of its internal processes such as sifting through data to find unpaid invoices. At the Department of Treasury, RPA  is facilitating background reviews of contractor performance to help its contracting officers with their due diligence in awarding contracts, she said.

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, plans share some of its observations on RPA with agencies soon.

The Technology Modernization Fund, a central revolving fund for IT projects, could be used for RPA projects, according to Bill Pratt, director of strategic technology management at the Department of Homeland Security.

"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 at the event. RPA and artificial intelligence, he said, can offer a quicker return on investment, as well as a more immediate modernization benefit for agencies.

This article was first posted to FCW, a sibling site to GCN.

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