Report urges innovation strategy during presidential transition

The next president, in order to hit the ground running during his or her first 100 days, will need a strategy for keeping the federal workforce’s innovation projects from losing momentum.

Former government officials have told the Partnership for Public Service and the IBM Center for the Business of Government that getting the right personnel, policies and platforms in place early in the next administration will play a key role in implementing policy goals.

“A focus on management by the White House and executive branch agencies will be essential for the new administration to successfully implement policy goals, reduce the risk of costly missteps, and build public confidence in the federal government’s ability to serve our nation,” PPS and IBM wrote in their latest presidential transition report.

The collaborative report features insights from former career and political federal employees gathered earlier this year from roundtable discussions.

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After Inauguration Day, the next presidential administration will have to develop a digital services strategy to maintain the growing number of public-facing websites provided by federal agencies.

In the past two presidential administrations, the public have expected more online interaction from the federal government. The transition report points to the success of “We the People” petitions on WhiteHouse.gov and filing tax returns online with the Internal Revenue Service.

The report credited the Obama administration for its “hallmark” decision to hire the first chief technology officer and chief data scientist for the White House — positions that were created in 2009 and 2015.

It also applauded the administration for seeking IT talent with a perspective from the private sector. DJ Patil, the current chief data scientist, worked previously at PayPal, eBay and Skype before joining the federal government. Megan Smith, the current chief technology officer, was previously the vice president of Google.

The report suggests the next administration use more short-term fellowship positions and events to identify upcoming new talent.

“By borrowing skills and personnel from some of America’s most innovative companies and universities, the government has been able to bring on more diverse talent more quickly,” the report said.

One recent success was the Defense Department’s “Hack the Pentagon” initiative, a pilot program in which white-hat hackers were challenged to find security flaws on five of DoD’s largest public-facing websites, including the Defense.gov homepage.

The Pentagon verified and fixed 138 security flaws from the pilot program and has already announced expanding the program.

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In July 2016, the Democratic National Convention party platform specifically addressed making dot-gov websites more accessible to the public.

“The federal government too often operates with websites designed from another era that are too complicated, too hard to use, and rarely designed for mobile phones or tablets. We will build on the creation of the United States Digital Service (USDS) and give it the resources it needs to transform and digitize the top 25 federal government programs that directly serve citizens. We will eliminate internal barriers to government modernization. And we will use technology to improve outcomes and government accountability by embracing prioritized goal setting and performance tracking for the federal government,” the platform said.

Neither the Republican National Convention nor the Donald Trump campaign website makes any mention of reforming federal digital services.

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