HHS updates on blockchain application

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The Department of Health and Human Services plans on a fall test of its Accelerate blockchain-based acquisition portal and a rollout by the beginning of the year, the agency's CIO said.

Accelerate is the first blockchain-based program in the federal government to get an authority to operate certification.

HHS CIO Jose Arrieta said in remarks at NextGov's Emerging Tech summit on Aug. 14 that the agency has been working on developing microservices for the agency's blockchain and artificial intelligence-infused acquisition portal.

For instance, he said, contracting officials will have capabilities based on the deep database acquisition data from the agency's five acquisition systems that will drive automatic pricing breaks used by major retailers.

"If you look up the price of something on Amazon and show it to the cashier at Target or Best Buy," he said, they will immediately give you the comparable discount offered at those other retailers. "That's empowering. We created that ability for the contracting professional" on the Accelerate portal, he said.

Arrieta said his agency is looking to test the portal in October and move the capability out for full agency use by January.

Other agencies, he said, can use some of the portal's top-level capabilities for their own acquisition work, since its core node that supports the business service layer adheres to the Federal Acquisition Regulation and the General Services Administration's category management initiative. Agencies can build their own custom microservices based on the core and business service layer, he said.

"No more rewriting information, reputation and certification validation, automate financial responsibility determination" and other necessary, but time-consuming actions, he said.

HHS, he said, is also working with the Defense Information Systems Agency (DISA) on a blockchain-based behavioral-based identity management pilot.

"We're just talking at this point," said Arrieta of the work with DISA. The idea, he said, is use interlaced identity points to lock down access without using more vulnerable passwords or user names. The solution would combine biometrics and behavioral information as a foundation to provide secure access to a variety of networks and devices to health workers, including first responders in the field and doctors in the operating room.

Those attributes, he said, could be loaded onto a $7 phone dongle attached to a smart phone that would potentially provide secure, less cumbersome and costly identity access to all the user's networks and devices. "This might be too much" of a leap for the current workforce, he said, but it could provide more security down the line.

"It's powerful," he said, as it "limits the power of whoever the [network] infrastructure provider is."

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 [email protected] or follow him on Twitter at @MRockwell4.


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