The Transportation Department plans to form a digital service team this year to work on a list of 18 innovative projects throughout the agency, FedScoop has learned.
The plan, being finalized by DOT’s Chief Technology Officer Maria Roat, calls for the department to hire a team of four developers to work on a series of high-profile projects designed to modernize and streamline business processes across multiple modes of transportation.
“We’re going to start small with four people this year and, pending budget approval, we’ll grow the team next year,” Roat told FedScoop.
So far, Roat has developed a list of 18 projects that she plans to assign to the new digital service team. They range from the agency’s geospatial initiatives to digitizing DOT’s hard copy library and automating toll collections along the St. Lawrence Seaway.
“These 18 projects run the gamut,” Roat said. “Some are looking at how we do things across the department where there are 30 different modes [of transportation] that do a similar function, but they’re all using different technology. How about if we look at the platform, tailor it for the user, but behind the scenes we have a common platform so that we can report on all of those different functions.”
Along the St. Lawrence Seaway, for example, the department is only able to accept cash or prepaid tolls. Roat wants the digital service team to develop new capabilities that will allow shippers to pass through the seaway and pay the toll as they go.
Another area of focus for the digital service team will be data sharing with other federal agencies, particularly the Department of Homeland Security, Roat said.
“With digital services it’s really taking that innovation and leap-frogging where technologies are old,” she said.
The plan comes amid a major rebuilding effort for the department’s technology office. Roat, who became CTO last August, is the first full-time CTO at the department in nearly four years, and she’s established an aggressive action plan. “I am rebuilding the office pretty much from scratch,” she said. “Right now we are up to our eyeballs in enterprise architecture. I need to build out the roadmap for the department around technology. I have a two-year plan for data, we’re about to finalize our geospatial plan and I’m also working a cloud strategy for the department.”
The Obama administration’s budget proposal, released in February, would allocate more than $100 million to give 25 agencies their own digital shops. The funding would be enough to hire about 500 new digital service employees total, which would give each of the teams an average size of 20. The 25 teams USDS will stand up are all CFO Act agencies except the Defense Department.
DOT’s total IT budget is about $3.2 billion, with $2 billion of that earmarked for the Federal Aviation Administration.