Mar 04 2014

What Is the U.S. Digital Government Office?

A proposed bill could change the way the federal government handles IT.

Here is a number the government isn’t proud of: According to a press release from Rep. Anna Eshoo (Calif.), “Studies show that 94 percent of major government IT projects between 2003 and 2012 came in over budget, behind schedule, or failed completely.”

Congresswoman Eshoo, a member of the communications and technology subcommittee, along with Rep. Gerry Connolly (Va.), proposed that a U.S. Digital Government Office be created to fix what has become a major problem for the federal government. The bill, known as the Reforming Federal Procurement of Information Technology Act (RFP-IT), would be a key step toward eliminating wasteful spending in the government.

On his blog, E Pluribus Unum, Alex Howard outlined the tenants of the bill:

  • Make the position of the U.S. chief technology officer and Presidential Innovation Fellows program permanent
  • Create a U.S. Digital Government Office (DGO) that would not only govern the country’s mammoth federal information technology project portfolio more effectively but actively build and maintain aspects of it
  • Increase the size of a contract for IT services allowable under the Small Business Act from $100,000 to $500,000
  • Create a U.S. DGO fund supported by 5% of the fees collected by executive agencies for various types of contracts

The need for rapid reform is the result of the botched rollout. WFAE, Charlotte, N.C.’s, NPR affiliate, notes that challenges like this aren’t unique to the United States government:

In Britain, a string of costly tech project failures led to the creation of the cabinet level position of "Executive Director of Digital," currently held by Mike Bracken, who we talked with last fall.

"One of the issues that you have here, and other countries have, is the absence of a delivery capacity — the absence of being able to put your hand on teams of highly skilled, multidisciplinary technical and digital and policy people and deploy them at points of real urgency," says Bracken, of America's current government tech-deployment system. The Eshoo-Connolly bill calls for putting that team at the heart of government, with the new digital office out of the White House. Bracken calls this draft bill "a great start" in solving the delivery problem.

Read the bill in full below, courtesy of Alex Howard.

Eshoo-Connolly RFP-IT Discussion Draft by Alex Howard