Blockchain technology continues to garner the attention and trust by the federal government, recognizing that the technology can make our government more efficient, transparent, and secure. In fact, some federal agencies are leading in the adoption of blockchain rather than falling behind the private sector. Such interest and embrace of blockchain technology is largely because of innovative leaders in government who recognize the problems with legacy systems and are willing to change them in order for the agency to better meet its mission and do business in a more secure, efficient, transparent, and inexpensive way.
House Republican Leader Kevin McCarthy (R-CA) recently called on Congress to explore blockchain technology and federal agencies to more widely adopt it when testifying before the Select Committee for Modernization of Congress. He stated, “Blockchain is changing and revolutionizing the security of the financial industry. Why would we wait around and why wouldn’t we institute blockchain on our own,to be able to check the technology but also the transparency of our own legislative documents? … We have an opportunity to take this window to make this place more effective, more efficient, and most importantly, more accountable.”
Several federal agencies like the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS), Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), and General Services Administration are already using blockchain technology for management of acquisitions, resources, records, and contract review processes. Under the leadership of Jose Arrieta, HHS, the largest civilian federal agency, developed an innovative program called HHS Accelerate that uses blockchain technology for acquisition. The blockchain technology serves as an operating system or infrastructure layer for HHS to then build microservices on top of it to use machine learning and robotic process automation. Blockchain technology is streamlining their contract-writing systems and cutting down HHS’ acquisition lifecycle from 200 days to 90, empowering their contract officers to make better purchasing decisions, and saving the agency hundreds of millions of dollars. Additionally, with HHS receiving the first authority to operate (ATO) for blockchain in government, HHS can move from its pilot to full production using live data.
The CDC is experimenting with blockchain technology to save lives. During times of health emergency, like combating epidemics, the CDC deploys skilled responders to the crisis zones; however, deployment does not happen as soon as it sometimes should. Before responders deploy, the CDC must first ensure that its responders meet the qualifications and have necessary medical clearances, vaccinations, passports, and visas. This data is across multiple systems, and the data may conflict with each other leaving officials unable to trust it. This can result in significant and harmful delays in getting to victims in time to treat them and save their lives. Sachiko Kuwabara, Director of the CDC’s Office of Risk Management, sees blockchain technology as the solution so the CDC can then better meet its mission. Under her leadership, the CDC is using blockchain technology to automate CDC’s entire deployment process and feed information to a mobile application that responders can then use in the field. The blockchain technology will serve as the central repository of data where the CDC can quickly pull information and trust the source.
Federal and state governments have also shown interest in using blockchain technology for identity management, disaster relief, voting, supply chain management, data registries, and water rights management.
While blockchain technology is largely a new ecosystem or infrastructure for data, its architecture and attributes are unlike any other technology. It is revolutionizing the way the federal agencies carry out their mission and do business, and we will continue to see more federal agencies and, perhaps even Congress, getting on the blockchain train.
Sarah Helton is a Principal on Michael Best Strategies’ government relations team. As an active member in the firm’s Blockchain, Digital Currencies & Smart Contracts industry group, Sarah partners with clients who are heavily involved in emerging technologies, including blockchain technology and AI. She works with businesses, non-profits, and associations to help them successfully navigate the federal government by developing and implementing public policy, political, and corporate strategies that create and protect market opportunities as well as build and protect their brands. She provides intelligence and thought leadership on legislative and regulatory issues impacting their business.