Digital Services

Dickerson to Congress: USDS is delivering results

US Digital Service 

The administrator of the U.S. Digital Service told Congress that his group had given the federal government significant bang for the taxpayer buck by hammering out digitally savvy solutions for chronic or confounding federal IT problems.

In a report submitted to Congress on USDS activity during 2016, Administrator Mikey Dickerson said $14 million of the $30 million appropriated went to support the service, while the balance went into supporting other federal IT oversight and reform efforts.

According to Dickerson, the two-year-old service, which was created to help clean up the faltering resource, has since brought digitally oriented thinking to a long list of projects that have stymied traditional IT solutions.

Among Dickerson's list of top USDS achievements in 2016 were the continuing modernization of the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services’ Electronic Immigration System, which began in 2014, and the group’s work at the Department of Veterans Affairs.

Dickerson said that as of September 2016, 25 percent of immigration transactions applications are processed with USCIS’ revamped system, including the I-90 green card renewal application.

Over the summer, Dickerson said USDS’ team at the VA helped launch that agency’s paperless appeals tool and simplified veterans-facing services through the website.

The service also helped the IRS roll out its Secure Access capabilities in June, a service that uses strong identity proofing and two-factor authentication to better protect tax records.

USDS’ central focus, Dickerson told Congress, is making “measurable improvement of the performance and cost-effectiveness of important, public-facing federal government digital services” by applying modern tech best practices combined with a “hands-on engagement” with agencies.

The service is also helping government rethink how it builds and buys digital services by modernizing procurement processes and practices with a digital-era edge. It is also pushing for common platforms, services and tools across the federal government and is bringing in top tech talent from the commercial side.

So far, Dickerson said, the service has recruited and placed over 200 “digital service experts” from hotly competitive commercial markets into limited “tours of duty” with civil servants inside agencies.

About the Author

Mark Rockwell is a senior staff writer at FCW, whose beat focuses on acquisition, the Department of Homeland Security and the Department of Energy.

Before joining FCW, Rockwell was Washington correspondent for Government Security News, where he covered all aspects of homeland security from IT to detection dogs and border security. Over the last 25 years in Washington as a reporter, editor and correspondent, he has covered an increasingly wide array of high-tech issues for publications like Communications Week, Internet Week, Fiber Optics News, magazine and Wireless Week.

Rockwell received a Jesse H. Neal Award for his work covering telecommunications issues, and is a graduate of James Madison University.

Click here for previous articles by Rockwell. Contact him at or follow him on Twitter at @MRockwell4.

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Reader comments

Mon, Jan 16, 2017

Another "marketing" piece by the most over rated and over hyped team in government. When is someone going to look at their many failures and all the money wasted? Moving this team under the DDM, and out from reporting to Federal CIO also a stupid management move. What is OMB leadership thinking? Are they leaving a little problem behind (and even making it worse) for Trump to trounce upon as a prime example of Obama admin tech arrogance?

Mon, Jan 16, 2017

In 2016, Res Hurd and Connolly both suggested that USDS use GAO's High Risk List as a way to prioritize their work. I still get a sense that USDS still is not focusing on tasks which impact the Nation as a whole, such as cyber or data standardization. Since they are not fee-for-service, as their GSA 18F pals are, USDS can, in fact, take on much more aggressive nation-wide least that's the thought. Perhaps the incoming Administration can "help" USDS choose their projects.

Fri, Jan 13, 2017 Owen Ambur Hilton Head, SC

We'd be in a better position to judge the merits of USDS if they were demonstrating leadership by example in publishing their performance plans and reports in machine-readable format, as agencies are required to do by section 10 of the Government Performance and Results Act (GPRAMA). As noted by the previous commenter, PPTs and speeches are no substitute for actual performance reports in machine-readable format. Helping agencies comply with section 10 of GPRAMA would be a worthy cause for USDS.

Fri, Jan 13, 2017

This ego project overpays often inexperienced people who like to telework and not be held accountable who then focus on how cool and innovative they are instead of learning how to have an impact in government. We would be better served to give this money to real civil servants in the form of grants to support/accelerate innovation and collaboration that is already happening. USDS is about making speeches and giving Powerpoints about how great they are at buzz words (Agile and Design Thinking are how the rest of us quietly get work done not something to brag about like an accomplishment). They are not about getting results. They join Code for America and the Government Digitial Service as projects more capable of promoting themselves than generating real impact.

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