A few years after setting goals to modernize the federal financial system, the Treasury Department’s Bureau of the Fiscal Service has already seen its strategy pay off.
Before the pandemic emerged, the bureau was already in the process of finalizing its IT strategic plan, and had lined up contracts and an acquisition strategy to implement that strategy.
That foundation played a key role in the bureau working alongside the IRS to implement the CARES Act and send nearly 160 million economic incentive payments to taxpayers, all with the vast majority of the bureau’s workforce teleworking.
Joseph Gioeli, the bureau’s chief technology officer, told Federal News Network that the pandemic led the agency into a “dare to be great moment,” addressing not just some of the near-term challenges standing up increased telework and collaboration tools, but also expediting cloud initiatives and application programming interface (API) integration needed to support fraud mitigation efforts.
“We were able to pivot and move more quickly through some of the efforts we had already lined up or in progress through some of the strong planning we did for that IT strategic plan,” Gioeli said.
The bureau’s pandemic response, he added, has also led to an embrace of concepts including DevSecOps and agile development.
“Those practices are here to stay, we’ve proven them out, we’ve figured out how it works, we have those concepts of operations. Now we have to make that the new normal from that standpoint,” Gioeli said.
That agile approach helped the bureau stand up a token-based process for employees to update their Personal Identity Verification (PIV) credential without having to come into the office.
Under ordinary circumstances, Gioeli said that would’ve taken months to do, but in less than a week, he said the bureau researched and selected alternatives, procured tokens and shipped them to the first round of users. The bureau also had to write and test custom code to streamline the token activation.
Within 10 days the bureau successfully set up its token solution and eliminated the need for employees and contractors — including new hires — to visit bureau facilities to obtain new credentials.
Commissioner Tim Gribben in May had also highlighted the bureau’s success onboarding new employees during the pandemic, as well as its success getting electronic economic incentives payments sent to millions of Americans mere weeks after Congress passed the CARES Act in March.
Cloud-based cybersecurity tools have also been vital for the bureau to manage the status of devices on its network, especially when agencies have seen a rise in phishing attacks during this period of mandatory telework. The bureau’s investments in cloud infrastructure allowed the bureau to pivot quickly and stand up video collaboration tools for employees to stay connected while working from home.
The bureau has also used these cloud-based tools for data aggregation and setting up dashboards to track CARES Act spending, as well as track facilities management to determine when it’s safe for employees to return to the office.
“Undoubtedly this situation was a transformation catalyst for us, coupled with that change in our strategic plan and vision. So while transformation doesn’t happen overnight, I think the current circumstances gave all of us a larger sense of the bureau’s mission, its wide-reaching impact and how we play a role in that,” Gioeli said.
Aside from its investments in IT modernization paying off, Gioeli said the bureau has also seen mandatory telework from the pandemic serve as an opportunity for the workforce to embrace change at a faster rate than what may have been previously thought possible.
“We do achieve our greatest successes as a result of those teams that really embrace change, lean into some of those difficult circumstances and seek to deliver those results, end-to-end — not just thinking about it from a technology perspective, but the changes in the things we can do across people process and technology,” he said.