2016 Report to Congress

High Priority Projects

USDS executes focused, hands-on engagements in which small teams of technical experts embed into existing agency programs, where they accelerate adoption of modern private sector best practices on important projects. These engagements may be proactive or reactive, and can range from two-week diagnostic sprints to in-depth multi-month engagements to dramatically improve a target service.

Typically, USDS is focused on increasing the success rate of a major IT acquisition in an agency. USDS personnel help promote the critical factors underlying successful major IT acquisitions identified by GAO in 2011 and reiterated in 2015 by GAO in its report on “Improving the Management of IT Acquisitions and Operations.”

This section details USDS’ most impactful projects, including those completed during the 2016 Fiscal Year:

  • Stabilizing and Improving HealthCare.gov. In the 2013-2014 Open Enrollment season, a small team of private sector experts helped overhaul, update, and simplify the design and infrastructure of HealthCare.gov, helping eight million Americans sign up for coverage. This success paved the way for the creation of USDS. In the two subsequent open enrollment periods, USDS staff continued to partner with CMS staff and contractors to further improve the HealthCare.gov system and services.
  • Modernizing the Immigration System at DHS. Since 2014, USDS has been helping USCIS implement private sector best practices on the Electronic Immigration System project. As of September 2016, 25% of immigration transactions applications are processed electronically using the system, including the green card renewal application (I-90), which has a 92% user satisfaction rate.
  • Streamlining VA Disability Claim Processing. Over the summer of 2016, the USDS team at VA helped launch Caseflow Certification, a tool to improve paperless appeals processing by detecting if required documentation has been added before an appeal can move forward. This simple check helps reduce preventable errors and avoidable delays caused by disjointed, manual processing. As of September 2016, approximately 87% of all paperless appeals are certified using the tool.
  • Simplifying Veteran-facing Services with Vets.gov. USDS is working with leaders across VA to build Vets.gov, a simple, easy-to-use site that consolidates information for Veterans.Over the summer, the USDS team helped VA launch a new digital application for healthcare built with feedback from Veterans. Previously, less than 10 percent of applicants applied online. Since the launch of the new healthcare application, daily online applications have increased from 62 per day to more than 500 per day.
  • Providing Secure Access to IRS Taxpayer Information. USDS helped IRS introduce Secure Access in June 2016, a user verification process that relies on strong identity proofing and two-factor authentication to protect users’ sensitive tax records. Secure Access ensures that users have convenient, real-time access to their transcripts while protecting taxpayer information from automated fraudulent attacks. As of September 2016, taxpayers have accessed 2.7 million tax records using the Secure Access process.
  • Improving the Visa Processing System at Department of State. USDS is assisting State to implement improvements in the Consolidated Consular Database, on which many Visa processing applications depend. USDS helped State adopt modern engineering best practices, and is helping State develop tools to communicate case status to applicants, which is the primary reason for many of the 9,000 phone calls the National Visa Center receives per day.
  • Helping CMS Implement Congressionally Mandated Medicare Payment Changes. Implementation of the Medicare Access and Chip Reauthorization Act of 2015 (MACRA) will change the way Medicare pays doctors for services rendered to Medicare patients. USDS is helping CMS use modern best practices to ensure the transition from the current payment program to the new system is simple, clear and effective.
  • Reducing Inefficiency in the Refugee Admission Process. Each year, the United States admits tens of thousands of refugees using a rigorous approval process. Previously, DHS officers had to approve refugee registration forms using an ink approval stamp in the field where the refugee file was physically located.USDS helped DHS and State implement a “digital stamp,” removing an unnecessary processing delay of 2 to 8 weeks for thousands of cases.
  • Helping Students Make More Informed College Choices at Department of Education. USDS, along with 18F, helped the Department of Education launch the College Scorecard to help students make more informed decisions about college selection. Millions of students have already benefited from this data, the most comprehensive and reliable ever published on employment outcomes and success in repaying student loans. Additionally, more than a dozen organizations have built new tools using the data.
  • Modernizing the Department of Defense Travel System. The USDS team at DoD (Defense Digital Service) is helping implement a new commercial tool to better manage the $3.5 billion of travel handled through the Defense Travel System each year.
  • Identifying Security Vulnerabilities in Department of Defense Websites. To strengthen data security at DoD, the USDS team at DoD (Defense Digital Service) launched “Hack the Pentagon,” the first bug bounty program in the history of the Federal Government. Adopting this private sector best practice led to the resolution of 138 previously unidentified vulnerabilities and cost $150,000, compared to the $1 million DoD estimates contracting an outside firm to do a similar audit would have cost.

Additional detail on each of these projects is provided in the following chapters.

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