May 15 2017

DHS Studies Benefits of Blockchain

How can agencies take advantage of the digital ledger technology?

Blockchain is commonly described as one of the most promising technologies on the IT landscape, and federal agencies are rushing to learn how to make the most of it.

The Department of Homeland Security is studying how the federal government can use the new capabilities, which include improving the efficiency and security of a digital log of transactions. DHS is funding research projects on whether blockchain can provide additional security and privacy controls, including at airports.

If so, agency leaders envision blockchain would allow for:

  • The reduction of redundant checks on airport travelers
  • The creation of immutable records that cannot be spoofed and can be publicly verified without revealing personally identifiable information
  • The sharing of emergency responder credentials across federal, state, local, tribal and international borders
  • The reduction of fraud in transferring goods across international borders

DHS leaders have warned that the hype around blockchain has led to near-mythical capabilities, but the agency has started tracking data from border surveillance devices in a ledger as a test.

In January, the Health & Human Services Department announced the winners of its contest for research papers on how blockchain could be used in healthcare. Members of Congress have also reconvened the Congressional Blockchain Caucus to encourage their colleagues to learn more about the issue. Mick Mulvaney, now director of the Office of Management and Budget, served as chairman of the caucus while a House member.