block chain on the horizon for government

GSA looks to blockchain for speeding procurement processes

While best known for financial applications, blockchain has public-sector use cases that range from supply chain to public records. The General Services Administration may soon add one more, as GSA is looking into how distributed ledger technology can speed up the FASt Lane process for IT Schedule 70 contracts through automation.

“FASt Lane is a business process that we put into place to award contracts within 34 days, where the requirements are very clear,” Jose Arrieta, director of the Office of IT Schedule Contract Operations at GSA, told GCN at the Sept. 20 ACT IAC Blockchain Forum.

The proof of concept being developed by Sapient Consulting and United Solutions is designed to bring the FASt Lane review process down to “single digits in terms of days,” Arrieta said.

“With our proof of concept, we looked at automating the business process so we could lessen the burden on industry and increase the accuracy in terms of the evaluation of our contractors to onboard these companies more quickly to service the agencies that leverage our contracts,” he said.

During a panel discussion, A. Michelle White, director of shared services and IT products contract operations at GSA, talked about she sees blockchain much like any other IT innovation her agency has investigated for large contract awards.

“I don’t see blockchain as any different from other emerging technologies where you are looking at agile procurement, sticking to objectives and working with our industry partners who are the experts,” White said. “Through small proof of concept acquisitions, [agencies or industry officials] can have a prototype to show to CFO or CIO to get full funding for the technology.”

White said there are some working groups at GSA’s Technology Transformation Service that are looking into blockchain, but the efforts are still in the early stages.

“All of the companies that we have reached out to are willing to discuss blockchain with us, but we lack the personnel on the government side who are experts in this technology” she said.

The Sept. 20 forum was intended as only the first step in ACT-IAC’s exploration of blockchain technology. The association's Emerging Technology Blockchain Working Group is expected to put out a primer on blockchain next week and a playbook in 2018.

“We want to clearly articulate what blockchain is, even though we know that the understanding of the technology will continue to evolve,” Arrieta said. “We are going to [put] some of the challenges in working with blockchain into a document that we can start to share between industry and government to learn how it would actually work.”

Arrieta said the forthcoming publications are not designed to be a “bible” for government agencies looking to use blockchain, but rather a tool for government and industry to determine what applications currently exist in the marketplace and some of the risks in getting agencies involved.

About the Author

Sara Friedman is a reporter/producer for GCN, covering cloud, cybersecurity and a wide range of other public-sector IT topics.

Before joining GCN, Friedman was a reporter for Gambling Compliance, where she covered state issues related to casinos, lotteries and fantasy sports. She has also written for Communications Daily and Washington Internet Daily on state telecom and cloud computing. Friedman is a graduate of Ithaca College, where she studied journalism, politics and international communications.

Friedman can be contacted at [email protected] or follow her on Twitter @SaraEFriedman.

Click here for previous articles by Friedman.


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