The White House is hoping to spur a major technological overhaul of government services with a new executive order President Biden will sign Monday. The order directs 17 government agencies to modernize the way they deliver critical services to Americans, including by bringing more of those services online.
"We looked at the points of greatest friction for people with their government — filing taxes, applying for social security benefits, waiting in TSA lines — and focused on ways to reduce that friction," Neera Tanden, senior adviser to the president, said on a call with reporters Monday. Tanden said the administration is focused on reducing the "time tax" on Americans.
The executive order focuses on agencies that have the most interactions with individuals and lays out more than 30 specific updates they need to make, from allowing Americans to renew their passports online to allowing disaster victims to submit photos of damage via their mobile phones. "All of these actions are near term in nature, meaning that they will generally be completed in the coming months, within one year," said Jason Miller, deputy director of management at the Office of Management and Budget.
Despite the broad scope of the White House mandate, Miller and Tanden said the order will rely on existing technical resources within agencies and within the White House. That includes the United States Digital Service, a tech team inside the White House, which launched under President Obama and has since played a key role in efforts to modernize the Department of Veterans Affairs, among other things. Miller said this modernization effort is intended not just to improve Americans' interactions with the government, but to also free up government resources that are currently being eaten up by inefficient systems.
"Improving the customer experience, reducing the amount of unnecessary trips to an office or calls that one needs to make and interactions with the federal government actually improves the efficiency of the services," Miller said.
Tanden noted that USDS has received additional resources through other federal funding. "They will be a significant asset in improving consumer experience with agencies, as they have done at the VA," Tanden said of USDS. In September, the White House said Mina Hsiang, an engineer who worked on the Healthcare.gov rollout, would become USDS administrator, succeeding Matt Cutts, a former Google executive who held the role for four years.
The White House plans to measure agencies' performance on these goals and publish transparency reports along the way, Miller said.