Blockchain is taking a lot of place in the U.S. government IT offices these days. “Jose Arrieta, the Department of Health and Human Services’ associate deputy assistant secretary for acquisition said blockchain has given his agency the flexibility it needs without being hamstrung by legacy IT systems,” according to Federal News Radio.
“What interests me about blockchain isn’t really what it does, it’s the agility that it gives you, meaning I can layer it over my existing systems and I can use it as a repository to create a data layer, and I can build microservices to add value off the data layer. Blockchain as a technology gives me that flexibility to interact with the old, and leverage the old for what it’s worth, but be really flexible for the new,” Arrieta argued.
Blockchain for IT Modernization
In last month’s budget negotiations, the congress authorized a $100 Million Technology Modernization Fund (TMF) for 2018, this is still less than half of what the Trump administration had requested.
The former federal chief information officer, Tony Scott, said that the budget is a step in the right direction to accelerate the implementation of blockchain technology across all branches of the government. But he fears that without interagency collaboration, blockchain could lead the government towards the wrong path.
“My fear is that with all the enthusiasm around blockchain, what we’ll get is 10,000 or 20,000 very unique, very siloed, unshareable solutions and while it may make things more efficient in some sort of siloed way, my fear is that it would fail to take advantage of what I think are some of the better properties of blockchain technology,” he said.
“Let’s go create some common thing that agencies can literally take advantage of right away without having to go do a bunch of individual work in every single agency and all of the discrete customizations that would go along with that. Getting the federal government to do anything as a whole is really hard, but there’s some great examples of cases where that’s been done. So let’s leverage those learning and those examples and use that a lubricant to the flywheel of getting stuffing going,” Tony Scott added.
The U.S. Defense department is also looking at how blockchain can help them with logistics, supply chain management and cybersecurity.
A provision in the 2018 National Defense Authorization Act requires the Department of Defense (DoD) to study the adoption of blockchain on a federal level.
Sherri Sokol, a member of the Defense Information Systems Agency’s innovation team, said:
“It’s a lot of cultural barriers that need to be broken down to get an agency ready to take on blockchain.”
Meanwhile, the U.S. Digital Service is working with governmental agencies to bring them up to date concerning the blockchain technology.
An acquisition strategist at the U.S. Digital Service, Brent Maravilla, recommended that the agencies start slowly with projects that can be executed in less than a year.
“You can race toward making a minimum viable product that you can show and actually does something. After that, in six to nine months, you can make a quick decision,” Maravilla said. “Are you going to continue with this contract and build more functionality, or are you going to recompete this. Is it not a good idea and we try something else?”