We live in a world where any new public policy is only as good as its underlying technology. Explore a few of the projects we've tackled below. For a comprehensive review of our most important projects to date, read the 2016 U.S. Digital Service Report to Congress.
We’re working with leaders across Veterans Affairs (VA) to build vets.gov, a simple, easy-to-use site that consolidates information for Veterans. One website — not thousands. Vets.gov launched in November 2015 in beta to provide tools and resources that are easy-to-find and use. Veterans are actively testing the site so we can learn, as we build, what is working for them and what is not. As the site progresses, Veterans will be able to find and access more of what they need in one place.
We’re supporting U.S. Citizenship & Immigration Services (USCIS) in digitizing the review process for over seven million annual immigration applications and requests. An increasing percentage of the immigration system is now online, including the green card renewal application (I-90), which has a 93% user satisfaction rate. Improvements to software development practices, system architecture, and design make it easier for users to interact with our immigration system.
We launched College Scorecard with the Department of Education and 18F 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. By giving developers access to an API, they can create more customized tools to help students find the right school.
Hundreds of thousands of Veterans have waited more than three years for a final disability claim appeal decision, relying on a complex and duplicative process. A comprehensive solution requires Congress to act and the Administration has called on them to do just that, but we are also doing what we can in the meantime. With the Board of Veterans’ Appeals, we launched Caseflow Certification, a simple web-app 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.
To strengthen data security at the Department of Defense (DoD), the Defense Digital Service launched “Hack the Pentagon,” the first bug bounty program in the history of the federal government. Adopting this commercial sector best practice allows the Department to crowdsource quick security solutions for DoD assets at low cost. The program won praise from Secretary of Defense Ash Carter, who wrote: “I am confident this innovative initiative will strengthen our digital defenses and ultimately enhance our national security.”
Digitizing Refugee Admissions
We worked with the Department of State and the Department of Homeland Security to launch a digital approval stamp process for Federal agencies processing refugees who have already been interviewed in-person, and who have cleared all security and background checks. More than 57% of cases require this action, so having the flexibility to conduct it from any location at any time is a significant benefit. The digital stamp approval process is the team’s first step towards modernizing the refugee admissions process by increasing officer efficiency and reducing wait time for applicants, while upholding rigorous security standards.
Working with VA, we introduced a new digital application for healthcare built with feedback from Veterans. Previously, less than 10 percent of applicants used the Veteran Online Application for a simple reason: the form—a fillable PDF that required Veterans to use Adobe 8 or 9 via Internet Explorer—would not open for most users. In the 30 days following the launch of the digital application, more than 11,600 Veterans used it to apply for healthcare, with many receiving coverage in less than 10 minutes.
To help borrowers easily navigate the complexity of student loan repayments, the U.S. Digital Service and the Department of Education’s Federal Student Aid (FSA) office launched StudentLoans.gov/Repay. Built mobile-first and using human-centered design, the site helps students find their best repayment options in five steps or less.
In partnership with the Office of Federal Procurement Policy (OFPP), we’re developing a more efficient procurement process for IT goods and services. To start, we posted on Challenge.gov, asking for training program ideas to make contracting officers successful in the era of digital government. The challenge winner created a training pilot to test with 30 contracting officers, who will complete the program empowered to act as business advisors to their agencies on digital service procurements.
Next Generation GPS
We’re collaborating with the Air Force to reduce project cost and schedule slip for the next generation of the U.S. Global Positioning System. The Defense Digital Service is working alongside DoD contractors to automate configuration, testing, integration and deployment, while also introducing DevOps methods. The next iteration of GPS will provide dramatic improvements to location accuracy and signal acquisition to continue supporting billions of users across the globe.
Working with the Internal Revenue Service, we introduced Secure Access, 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.
Built in collaboration with 18F designers and developers, we created the U.S. Web Design Standards to bring consistency and good user experience to government websites. This new UI system provides guidance for creating easy-to-use digital interfaces by unifying visual language and interaction patterns that meet high standards of web accessibility.
In addition to supporting healthcare for 55 million Americans, Medicare also uses data and payments to understand and improve patient care. But for the 1.2 million clinicians providing care, and the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS) employees running Medicare, the outdated technology is difficult to use. Working with CMS, the U.S. Digital Service team at HHS is redesigning and upgrading the technology infrastructure and user experience, to provide patients and clinicians with a better system.
In the 2013-2014 Open Enrollment season, our team helped overhaul, update, and simplify the design and infrastructure of HealthCare.gov, helping eight million Americans sign up for coverage. Since then, U.S. Digital Service engineers have supported the day-to-day operations of the site, helping 20 million citizens get health insurance under the Affordable Care Act by 2016.
To help the government more consistently procure high quality products and services for users, we developed the TechFAR Hub, a suite of resources for agencies. These resources help to apply industry best practices to digital service acquisition across the Federal government.
For small business owners, navigating the contractor certification process is burdensome, involving hours of paperwork and manually scanning dozens of documents. We assisted the Small Business Administration (SBA) in establishing an agile procurement to modernize technology and streamline the certification process. The newly launched certify.SBA.gov saves small businesses time and money, and it increases the SBA’s capacity to provide small businesses access to the federal contracting space.
Announced in the 2015 State of the Union, the Precision Medicine Initiative is a new effort to revolutionize how we improve health and treat disease by taking each unique person’s genes, environment, and lifestyle into account. The U.S. Digital Service team at the Department of Health & Human Services is working to enable this medical transformation, partnering with NIH and VA to build their volunteer research platforms and the supporting technology, with the goal of gaining new insights for the development of individualized care.