Obama Administration Launches Team To Improve Federal IT Projects

August 13, 2014 in News

On Monday, the Obama administration launched a new team aimed at improving the federal government’s IT operations following the problem-plagued rollout of the Affordable Care Act’s federal health insurance exchange website, the Washington Post reports (Eilperin/Scola, Washington Post, 8/11).

Background

HealthCare.gov experienced severe technical glitches during the exchange’s launch for the initial open enrollment period, which began on Oct. 1, 2013. Consumers and insurers reported application delays and data errors that extended beyond the high visitor traffic and software issues that HHS initially cited (iHealthBeat, 11/1/13).

On Oct. 20, 2013, the Obama administration announced it had formed a team of IT experts from the public and private sectors to help resolve the technical glitches (iHealthBeat, 10/21/13). The administration recruited several top software and technology professionals and experts from Google, Red Hat and Oracle as part of a “tech surge” effort to address the issues on HealthCare.gov (iHealthBeat, 11/5/13).

Details of New Team

The new team — called the U.S. Digital Service — will be led by Mikey Dickerson, a former Google engineer who worked on the team that helped repair HealthCare.gov, FCW reports (Mazmanian, FCW, 8/11).

According to Dickerson, team members could include:

  • Procurement specialists;
  • Programmers; and
  • User interface experts (Boulton, “CIO Journal,” Wall Street Journal, 8/11).

In conjunction with its launch, the Digital Service released:

  • A “playbook” of 13 best practices for building effective IT services; and
  • A handbook to assist staffers in complying with federal regulations on IT procurement (FCW, 8/11)  

Going forward, the team will:

  • Help to predict, identify and fix problems with government IT systems and websites;
  • Improve government websites to enhance their usability (Shear, New York Times, 8/11); and
  • Standardize federal IT practices, including selecting “common technology platforms” (FCW, 8/11).

Federal CIO Steve VanRoekel said the team — which is operating off of a current budget of $7 million — plans to add about seven to 10 external hires. In addition, President Obama has requested $20 million in funding for the team in fiscal year 2015, which would allow the team to expand to about 25 members. Each member would serve in rotations of two to four years, according to the Post (Washington Post, 8/11).

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