Where USDS Is Now: Updates and Initiatives

The federal fix-it team provides overview of projects in its most recent report to Congress.

Since its 2014 establishment, the U.S. Digital Service has been working with government to improve public-facing digital sites, tools and services. In its July report to Congress, the first under President Donald Trump’s administration, USDS highlighted progress on 10 priority projects with federal agencies.

“USDS was able to hire more than 200 individuals to serve for limited tours of duty in government to work toward this transformation,” said USDS Acting Administrator Matt Cutts in the report’s opening letter. “We’re capitalizing on opportunities to partner directly with agencies and others in the Federal space to untangle the most vital government services on which Americans rely.”

The projects included simplifying veteran-facing services with Vets.gov, a website launched in November 2015 to streamline how vets discover, apply for, track and manage their benefits on any device. The team also worked to modernize its outdated Veterans Appeals Control and Locator System, used when a veteran appeals the decision of a filed claim for disability compensation. Components of the new system, Caseflow, are deployed iteratively.

USDS also worked with the General Services Administration to build the common identity platform Login.gov. The site consolidates the number of public-facing government website log-ins. Deployed in April, it has been used by Customs and Border Protection at the Homeland Security Department with interest from other federal departments.

The report included other projects like helping Homeland Security Department’s Citizenship and Immigration Services implement its 5-year Electronic Immigration System modernization project, or ELIS, and release myUSCIS so immigration applicants can apply and track their cases online.

USDS worked with the Small Business Administration to create the Certify.SBA.gov platform in 2015 so small businesses can document and certify their status online. The portal has since seen six major product launches and more than 32 product updates.

In June, a new version of the SBA’s Historically Underutilized Business Zones map was launched for public preview. For the Defense Department, USDS developed the Advisor Network 2.0, replacing the legacy ANET software system, allowing DOD to track deployed adviser engagements with Afghan government counterparts. ANET 2.0 was deployed on a classified network in March, and the unclassified source code was released on Code.mil, DOD’s open source platform launched by USDS in February.

USDS also helped present the first federal bug bounty, Hack the Pentagon, to identify vulnerabilities in both public-facing and internal assets. USDS also worked with the Health and Human Services Department to develop and implement an application programming interface strategy that will cut the cost and burden of participating in Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services programs. It’ll allow the market to build software that interacts directly with Medicare systems and data.

The initial API has already led the private sector to develop new tools and iPhone apps within just a week of going live. A public test version is available now, and USDS said it would make the finished version available by the end of 2017.

These projects tend to evolve, too.

USDS is continuing its work with USCIS to support the creation of digitized system for immigrant applicants. Though some tools are currently under development, many had soft launches in 2017 and will be adopted as the primary entry point for applicants once USCIS fully transitions from its legacy system to ELIS.

USDS is also launching new products and tools on Vets.gov, and is working on the broader adoption of ANET to further support DOD security cooperation missions. The Hack the Pentagon event even led to the Department of the Air Force’s Hack the Air Force on May 30.

As of June 2017, USDS has active teams at seven federal agencies: Defense, Veterans Affairs, DHS, HHS, GSA, SBA and Education. Under the Trump administration, USDS is a member of the recently formed American Technology Council and is working with the Office of American Innovation.

Prior to the July report, the last report to Congress on USDS’ projects was in December 2016, under the Obama administration.