Advice to Jared Kushner and the new White House Office of American Innovation

Photo: White House
Photo: White House

The White House reportedly will create an Office of American Innovation, led by White House Senior Advisor Jared Kushner.

According to The Washington Post, “the office will be staffed by former business executives and is designed to infuse fresh thinking into Washington, float above the daily political grind and create a lasting legacy for a president still searching for signature achievements.”

Here are some ideas for Kushner and the OAI team.

Think local

Many of the current federal digital services cater solely to federal offerings. All future services need to include functionality that addresses the needs of state and local governments, including Buy.gov and USAJobs.gov (see below).

Build Buy.gov

Procurement is a problem for government, not just federally, but locally. Access to centralized information on a single Buy.gov platform would make it easier for all American governments (federal, state, local) to post opportunities. The current approach taken with FedBizOps is a great start, but the FBO branding must be re-done and the offering should extend to state and local entities. This will also make it easier for American businesses everywhere (not just inside the Beltway) to access and bid on every U.S. government opportunity in a more streamlined, cost-effective manner.

Included in this effort should be actively incorporating the work done with the TechFAR Handbook.

Make USA.gov great

USA.gov is the linchpin in holistically changing the federal government’s siloed approach to presenting its service offering to citizens. It’s unclear the purpose of America.gov, but that domain should be merged with USA.gov and the latter should be the strategic focus for OAI, U.S. Digital Service, 18F and all agency-specific digital service teams. The collective efforts of these teams in making America’s flagship domain a great user experience is imperative to changing the big picture approach to how we engage with the federal government online.

The potential here to impact change is endless. It’s also your number one recruiting tool.

USAJobs.gov

Fast-tracking a broader approach to USAJobs.gov that includes state and local government jobs and general better user experience shows the administration is thinking holistically about American jobs, and how the federal government can support this.

Unify the experience

18F and USDS have done a great service developing the U.S. Web Design Standards, and this effort should be championed to all agencies deploying new digital services. Even if you are unable to dictate a strategic and technical approach across the federal bureaucracy, you can at least start with aesthetics, which is a big step. Participation in this can also be tracked via Pulse (see below).

Another aspect of this is the personalized experience of the user. The work being done with Login.gov should play a key role in creating a simplified, customized citizen experience.

Consolidate data-focused sites

USASpending.gov, Data.gov and the siloed approach to open data that agencies have taken is a disjointed approach to structured data and its presentation. By consolidating these (and probably other data-related sites), you begin to build a true dashboard into government operations and the information it has to offer. The former is great government. The latter would be great for businesses.

At some point, in some form or another, I would extend “data” to “intellectual property” and include Code.gov and agency-level assets like NASA Spinoff.

Streamline software-as-a-service acquisition

The General Services Administration has done a great job negotiating government-friendly terms of service agreements, but this is just the tip of the iceberg. To date, much of the emphasis on digital innovation has been on bespoke development, but custom services don’t scale, software does. The federal government must move away from a default of highly custom services and make it easier to try, buy and transition to easy-to-deploy, cost-effective software-as-a-service.

Publicly track progress

Continue to build on the work of 18F’s Pulse and publicly show the status of standardized efforts to modernization and innovation. This is your greatest tool for encouraging those internally and showing those you serve that progress is being made.

As The Washington Posts writes, “Kushner is positioning the new office as ‘an offensive team’ — an aggressive, nonideological ideas factory capable of attracting top talent from both inside and outside of government, and serving as a conduit with the business, philanthropic and academic communities.”

Largely with the help of GSA and the brand power of USA, the opportunity to truly scale impact is endless. Thinking holistically, unified and scalable when it comes to procurement, branding, technology and public services is the future of American and federal government innovation.

About Luke Fretwell

Luke Fretwell is the founder of GovFresh. He is also co-founder and CEO of ProudCity. Connect with him on Twitter and LinkedIn or email at luke@govfresh.com.

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