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Teaching Feds How To Be Like Silicon Valley: The US Digital Service

Bottom Line Up Front: The US Digital Service is the engine driving the Digital Transformation in the Federal Government. They are the ones behind everything that is happening to modernize Government acquisitions.

How It All Started: The Obamacare Website

You probably remember the absolute disaster surrounding the Obamacare website rollout and how the whole world ridiculed President Obama for months for the trainwreck. Less well known is how it all got fixed; this TIME Magazine’s article tells the tale very well and is really worth reading. But hardly anyone has heard of what the President did to make sure the Government learned its lesson.

What President Obama did was to hire those Silicon Valley geniuses who had saved the day and create a new Government office, the U.S. Digital Service, so they could teach the Federal Government to be more like them.

Teach The Feds To Be Like Silicon Valley

If you take just one idea from this blog entry, you should understand that the current Digital Transformation taking place in the Federal Government is being powered by the US Digital Service. All of the initiatives, offices, legislation, policies, and everything else we cover in this blog has originated in the US Digital Service. Their job is to bulldoze the existing Federal technology acquisition infrastructure to the ground, and to rebuild it in the image of Silicon Valley. And they’ve been doing a pretty good job.

What Do They Do?

For starters, they wrote the landmark Digital Services Playbook, which teaches commercial principles like User Experience to the Federal Government. We’ll cover the Playbook in more detail in a future blog entry.

They also created the U.S. Web Design System, which establishes a standard for Government websites. It specifies their required organization, interaction patterns, and even has a downloadable style guide you can use. We have already covered the Web Design System in this blog entry.

A really significant thing they did was to write the landmark TechFAR Handbook, which tells the Feds how to use Silicon Valley methods inside the Federal Acquisition Regulations red tape of the US Government. We’ll cover the TechFAR Handbook in more detail in a future blog entry.

Within the Civilian side of the US Government, the US Digital Service has spearheaded innumerable modernization efforts in service to the American citizen. The IRS website, Social Security website, Centers for Disease Control; they have done work in a mountain of Federal organizations.

What Does That Mean For Me?

If you work in an existing Federal contracting company and want to understand why your world is being turned upside-down, you need to visit the US Digital Service’s website and find out what to expect.

If you are a worker or company that has never worked for the Government because the bureaucracy and red tape was too daunting, you should know that the doors are being flung open and you should go to the US Digital Service’s website and find out what the new world looks like.