White House Launches ‘U.S. Digital Service,’ With HealthCare.gov Fixer At The Helm

Nancy Scola | The Washington Post | August 11, 2014

The White House on Monday announced that it is formally launching a new U.S. Digital Service and that it has hired to lead it Mikey Dickerson, an engineer widely credited with playing a central role in salvaging HealthCare.gov after its disastrous launch. The idea behind the USDS, as the White House has taken to calling it, is institutionalizing the approach that saved the health care site and applying it to the work of the government even before disaster strikes.

Today is the service's high-profile launch, but the idea of it has been circulating for several months. In testimony before the Senate's Homeland Security Committee in May, federal Chief Information Officer Steve VanRoekel called it a "centralized, world-class capability...made up of our country’s brightest digital talent," forming a team that will be "charged with removing barriers to exceptional Government service delivery and remaking the digital experiences that citizens and businesses have with their Government."

At first glance, the U.S. Digital Service seems to share many of the attributes of 18F, the newish office of federal technologists housed at the General Services Administration. Both aim to spread smart technology and smart technologists across federal agencies that have long operated as silos. But as VanRoekel describes it, 18F is the team that goes into agencies and puts its hands to fixing things, while Digital Services -- which will be housed inside the Office of Management and Budget -- will be focused on providing consultation."...