Hoping to prevent another HealthCare.gov disaster, the White House on Monday launched the U.S. Digital Service, a team of experts that aims to fix problems with government websites and help upgrade federal technology infrastructure.
To head up the new office, the White House turned to Mikey Dickerson, a former Google engineer who helped resurrect HealthCare.gov after its high-profile meltdown. Dickerson also worked for the Obama campaign’s analytics team. He’ll have the title of deputy chief information officer.
The effort is the Obama administration’s latest effort to grapple with the federal technology shortcomings exposed by HealthCare.gov. When it became clear last fall that millions of Americans were unable to log on to the health care website, the administration brought in a “tech surge” of experts to tackle the glitches.
In the wake of that debacle, executives and engineers from Silicon Valley have blasted the government for a federal contracting system and information-technology processes they say make it nearly impossible for cutting-edge tech companies to work in Washington.
Prior to the White House’s move Monday, Congress had been trying to address some of the bureaucratic problems. The House has three times passed a federal IT reform measure from Reps. Darrell Issa (R-Calif.) and Gerry Connolly (D-Va.) that tries to address the logistical failures of HealthCare.gov and federal contracting more generally.
A Senate panel passed its own federal IT reform measure in June, but the bill failed to get the endorsement of Sen. Carl Levin (D-Mich.), whose Armed Services Committee is the most likely candidate to move the legislation to the floor. The measure is at “an impasse,” Trey Hodgkins, the Information Technology Industry Council’s senior vice president for the public sector, said last week.
As part of the White House launch, the new U.S. Digital Service is releasing a “playbook” that outlines best practices government agencies can follow. Another guide released Monday, the TechFAR (Federal Acquisition Regulation) Handbook, is supposed to help agencies do a better job of procuring high-quality digital services.
The White House has been reluctant to endorse the congressional reform efforts. “I don’t think legislation is needed to get us there,” U.S. Chief Information Officer Steven VanRoekel told Federal News Radio in June. “You can’t legislate good management.”
Erin Mershon contributed to this report.
This article originally appeared in Politico and can be found here.