Friday, March 22, 2024
Articles & insights in public management & leadership for the week ending March 22, 2024

Senate to take $100M back from TMF, $10M from USDS. Despite the efforts by industry and the Office of Management and Budget over the last six plus months to change the committee’s mind, Senate appropriators rescinded $100 million from the TMF for fiscal 2024. Senate lawmakers released the remaining 2024 appropriations bill today that detailed the decisions to reduce funding for centralized IT modernization accounts across the board. The TMF is taking a double hit as the Senate also zeroed out any new funding for this year, possibly leaving the IT modernization effort in a tough spot from a funding perspective.

Top Fed Tech Leaders: Gen AI set to Transform Government Workforce. The age of generative AI is here, and top officials from across the federal government said this week that agencies must begin the work to demystify and embrace the tool among their workforce to transform how business is done. Air Force Research Laboratory Chief Information Officer (CIO) and Chief AI Officer (CAIO) Alexis Bonnell said that generative AI presents a new opportunity for increased knowledge. “When I think about what gen AI might allow us to do to have a relationship with knowledge at that speed and scale, but even more importantly just to reduce the toil – the things that someone doesn’t find fulfilling – I think that there’s going to be a real trickledown effect of retention, of greater sense of purpose,” Bonnell said during the “Securing Intelligent Transformation with Gen AI” panel.

Federal IT Experts: Drive Digital Transformation Aggressively. Two federal IT experts had a message on March 21 for agencies trying to achieve digital transformation: don’t hesitate to drive cultural change even if it means upsetting some of your colleagues. Reshea Deloatch, a Department of Homeland Security (DHS) official, said the agency’s more than decade-long digital modernization effort has revealed that “especially in the solutions space, you have to not be afraid to break things…It’s part of the process,” said Deloatch, who is executive director for the Solutions Development Division in DHS’s OCIO.  “Sometimes we’re taking very calculated risks with deploying very large systems that serve the public.”

Fed CX Pros: Analytics, AI Fueling Service Delivery Revamp. Aiming to generate good customer experience across federal agencies is far from a new concept, but the implementation of analytical and artificial intelligence-based tools across the federal government is allowing for a much-needed revamp of how the government delivers services. Courtney Kay-Decker, the deputy chief taxpayer experience officer at the IRS, said her team was able to establish a strategic plan that included a long list of customer experience projects in 2021 – including revamping customer interaction systems and processes. “You should be able to get to us how you want to, when you want to and get something resolved quickly, without a whole bunch of rigmarole,” Kay-Decker said. 

DHS CAIO Aims for National Leadership in AI Tech. The Department of Homeland Security’s (DHS) first Chief AI Officer (CAIO) Eric Hysen said this week that he is aiming for DHS to be a national leader in AI technologies – not only for the rest of the Federal government but for industry as well. Hysen said he believes the “better we are at using AI in our own 260,000-person organization, the better we will be able to support and drive nationwide efforts around AI safety.” The CAIO said that one major part of his job is “looking at how we’re deploying AI at DHS in support of our missions…we’ve been integrating AI into our missions for many, many years, but there’s a renewed focus today, particularly with the potential of generative AI.”

DoD’s approach to fix its computers is function over form. Leslie Beavers, the principal deputy CIO for DoD, said a key focus for the near future is to improve the warfighter’s experience in using IT. A year after a scathing report from the Defense Business Board found general unhappiness with the user experience with technology across the Defense Department, the chief information officer’s office is taking a simple approach to fix the computers. Leslie Beavers said the overarching philosophy behind their improved CX approach is putting the user and their mission first.

Limited application of novel acquisition pathways hinders defense innovation. Despite the Pentagon’s efforts and reforms in recent years to attract more innovative companies into its ecosystem, it is still challenging for companies outside the traditional base to do business with the department, a new report finds. The Reagan Foundation and Institute graded the health and resilience of what it calls the U.S. national security innovation base. The report card gave the country a generous A- in innovation leadership; a strong B when it comes to funds available to national security innovation initiatives; and a B when it comes to the willingness of the private sector to work with the federal government.



ICYMI – Exploring Homeland Security’s Procurement Strategy. This week Michael Keegan welcomed Paul Courtney, Chief Procurement Officer, U.S. Department of Homeland Security to discuss the mission of his office, DHS' procurement and acquisition strategy, operational improvements, efforts leveraging emerging technologies, and his insights on leadership.