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DOES14 - Mark Schwartz - U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services

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Published on Oct 29, 2014

How DevOps Can Fix Federal Government IT

The Federal Government spends more than $80 billion each year on information technology. As the fiasco with healthcare.gov demonstrates, the results are not always good. Government IT programs are expensive and monolithic, and the lead time from a “mission need” to a deployed capability is often measured in years (in one of our agency’s programs, about 12 years!). IT systems are often difficult to use, and the US government’s online service offerings to citizens are far from meeting the expectations of a public that is used to Google, Facebook, and Twitter.

The US government has only recently begun to adopt agile approaches, and only in a few agencies. But the results have been encouraging, and show that it is possible for the bureaucracy to be agile. DevOps, however is a game changer. At USCIS we have moved to a continuous integration, continuous delivery approach, and have begun experimenting with a DevOps model tailored to the needs of the government.

By combining DevOps with some ideas taken from the Lean Startup movement, I believe we can cause a radical change in how the government does IT. We can dramatically reduce lead times and costs, improve the usability of systems, provide more transparency, create citizen-centric online services, and – importantly – significantly improve the government’s security posture.

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