Mikey Dickerson: No Paper Pushing At US Digital Service

Jack Moore | Nextgov.com | September 15, 2014

Mikey Dickerson has already bucked Washington convention with his rumpled shirts and notable lack of neckwear.  Now, the head of the U.S. Digital Service, a newly formed White House office responsible for improving government technology projects, is putting the federal IT community on notice: Don’t expect any paper pushing from his office.  “Our primary work product is not memos and advisory statements and new processes and stuff like that. It’s actual working, functioning services,” Dickerson said during a Sept. 12 meeting of the President’s Management Advisory Board.

Dickerson, a former Google engineer, knows the fix-it mentality well, having taken the lead role in repairing the floundering HealthCare.gov.  He said the U.S. Digital Service, still in pilot mode at the Office of Management and Budget, will be equal parts early-warning detection center and rapid-response tech triage unit.

HealthCare.gov is “Exhibit A” in the case for such an office, he said.  “We didn’t have any group to perform the function of -- not to sound too grandiose -- like the Navy Seals or the Special Forces, where when there’s a problem, they go to the problem without preconditions, without stopping to consider whether this mission’s too hard or whether it can’t be done,” he said. “If you tell them to go, they go.”  That differentiates the new office from the General Services Administration’s 18F office and the teams of Presidential Innovation Fellows -- now in the program’s third year -- who remain focused more on helping agencies scale out and build new projects and services from scratch...