The Information Technology and Innovation Foundation on Monday retracted a finding in its report to President-elect Donald Trump, which said that the White House should get rid of the United States Digital Service.
Samantha Greene, communications director at ITIF, said that it now suggests, “There is good reason for the USDS to continue operating as it does now within the White House. Moreover, ITIF believes Federal agency CIOs should have authority and accountability to implement major IT initiatives independently rather than rely on a centralized team of experts.”
ITIF released this change a week after the report initially came out on Nov. 21.
The initial report said that the Trump administration should eliminate the White House Office of Management and Budget’s USDS and build a new team of experts within the General Services Administration to work on new IT projects such as health insurance exchanges under the Affordable Care Act. ITIF also said that GSA should establish a separate team for outsourcing projects and communicating with public and private partners. ITIF said that the Federal government lacks the ability to manage major information systems and most agencies have difficulty managing tough contracts. The team of GSA experts would be able to negotiate these obstacles.
Greene said that ITIF’s initial recommendation to convene a team of experts within GSA was a mistake and that USDS should remain under OMB.
“A recommendation suggesting otherwise should not have been included in the report,” said Greene.
The change is a significant departure from the original report, which included well thought-out alternatives to USDS.
Greene said, “The correction is not in response to any external pressure. It was an error and should not have been included in the report.”
An industry analyst who spoke to MeriTalk on condition of anonymity said that the retraction probably doesn’t stem from White House pressure but is an indication of deep disagreement within ITIF.
“There is a split between [ITIF’s] companies on whether USDS or 18F would be continued,” said the industry analyst.
USDS, located within the White House, is a team of experts who work on IT administrative priorities that are struggling, whereas 18F, which is located within GSA, delivers software and develops an innovative IT culture within the Federal government.