Kent: Agencies Need to Get Started on Automation & AI

US Federal CIO Suzette Kent OMB MeriTalk CCXB

The Federal government is dedicated to a whole of government effort on automated technologies and artificial intelligence, and agencies need to get started on their efforts sooner rather than later, said Federal CIO Suzette Kent today.

“Our goal is to get agencies just to start. [The previous speaker] said ‘don’t go out and buy everything,’ but we want them to buy something. We want them to be moving forward,” she said, speaking at the aiWorld Government conference.

To illustrate the whole of government effort underway, Kent highlighted multiple initiatives underway, putting emphasis on the recently released Federal Data Strategy.

“The long plan in the overall strategy has a large set of activities, and we pulled a subset of those, 16 action items, to be part of this year’s focus. That may seem like a lot, but we think it’s doable, and we think it’s doable because they’re the things we have to do. It’s not just a choice, it’s an imperative,” she stressed.

Specific to AI, she noted that the Federal Data Strategy puts emphasis on datasets that can support the research and development of AI, as well as geospatial data and financial data.

Kent also noted the automation policy currently under development by the Office of Management and Budget, describing it as “guardrails” for agencies in adopting automated technologies.

“For example, if I’m consolidating data off of three reports to produce another report, there’s probably less complex. But if I’m assessing a wide variety of variables and I’m going to make a decision about a privilege or an entitlement that we’re providing to a citizen, those consequences are higher,” she explained.

“[We want to] support agencies in their exploration and application of automated technologies so that their journey is matched with the appropriate level of control and discipline, based on the expected outcome and the consequence of that activity.”

She also noted that on a recent call to form communities of practices for robotics process automation (RPA), over 400 folks joined to gain insights on best practices.

Kent offered a long list of policies and efforts that are supporting the push for AI, including the recently finalized Cloud Smart policy, the data cross-agency priority goal, the national AI research and development strategy, the new identity and credential access management policy, and AI priorities in the budget process.

“I run through that long list to emphasize that the whole of government has a focus on AI capabilities, and that Federal leadership is united in making this a priority,” said Kent.

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