Excerpt from Backchannel — July 2016
In 2014, the White House formed the United States Digital Service. The USDS intends to replicate, assembly-line-style, the sprint that saved healthcare.gov. Using talent recruited on the basis of patriotism and the promise of impactful work, USDS tries to target similar moribund projects, or problems that could be addressed by modern tech practices, and produce stuff that works, at a fraction of the traditional cost.
To do that, the USDS needs to fan out from the White House and embed its Silicon Valley hacker recruits into the major government agencies, to get direct access to a select set of projects that would make a difference in citizens’ lives.
And it is doing just that. The USDS has worked on thirteen major projects involving eleven agencies, and claims to have saved the government many times its $14 million budget. It has charters to place full-blown teams in seven different agencies, with more to come before the end of the year. When the U.S. Government Accountability Office (GAO) quizzed managers at the agencies on whether they were satisfied with the effort, the average score was 4.67 on a scale of 5…