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FCW : May 15, 2015
It’s no secret that the federal govern- ment is on the lookout for a few good geeks. The fast-growing U.S. Digital Service, housed at the Office of Man- agement and Budget, is trying to induce private-sector techies to do a stint in government. And now agencies are incorporating funding for such teams into their budget requests. Federal Deputy CIO and USDS Administrator Mikey Dickerson pegged overall spending on the new tech teams at about $105 million. “The demand from the agencies is...more than we could ever satisfy,” Dickerson said in a recruiting pitch at the South by Southwest conference in March. “We have met with 22 of them and identified around 60 projects that need attention.” Most of the agencies that fall under the CFO Act have made budget requests to fund digital services teams. However, the Defense Department is not establishing such a team, and the congressional justification documents for the departments of Energy and Housing and Urban Development make no mention of the program. Otherwise, buy-in is solid up and down the line. There are at least $75 million worth of digital services funding requests, even though some agencies that are currently fielding teams or plan to do so in fiscal 2016 did not include dollar figures in their documents. Budget justification documents appear to have borrowed some boil- erplate text, presumably supplied by OMB, that explains the need for digital services teams and the gains in produc- tivity and efficiency they can engender. One particular passage — “The suc- cess rate of government digital services can be improved when the department has digital service experts on staff with modern digital product design, soft- ware engineering and product manage- ment skills” — can be found in more than a few of the documents. Some agencies have spelled out specific plans for their digital services teams and made budget requests that are outsized, at least when compared to their overall IT spending. The Commerce Department, for example, is seeking $6.4 million for its digital service, with an eye to standardizing its data and making it interoperable. The agency said it envi- sions a common data system as “a key asset that will enable the department to increase access to a more consum- able version of the data it collects and produces.” The Department of Health and Human Services is requesting $10 mil- lion for its digital services team. The agency wants 30 full-time employees and is focusing on establishing a core team with strong management skills to guide the development of digital ser- vices across HHS. “The initial group will need core expertise in program management, program evaluation, procurement, data science, information architecture and structured content,” the budget docu- ment states. HHS leaders are taking advantage of the new program to promise tight- er coordination between its CIO, chief technology officer and Office of the Assistant Secretary for Public Affairs, which has broad authority over the department’s public-facing websites. The Treasury Department is plan- ning a 41-person, $10 million digital services team that will focus on the usability of online government services across platforms and devices, better BY ADAM MAZMANIAN Most CFO Act agencies have bought into the concept of digital services teams and are including them in their 2015 budget requests Agencies seek millions in digital services funding 22 May 15, 2015 FCW.COM DrillDown The demand from the agencies is... more than we could ever satisfy. MIKEY DICKERSON, USDS 0515fcw_022-023.indd 22 4/20/15 2:26 PM
April 30, 2015
May 30, 2015