Blockchain (a-image/

HHS expects to roll out blockchain acquisition solution

The Department of Health and Human Services is making a big push to have the first blockchain-based program in the federal government that gains an authority to operate. 

At a Dec. 4 FCW event, Jose Arrieta, associate deputy assistant secretary for HHS' Division of Acquisition, told GCN he expects to get the ATO "within in the next week" for HHS Accelerate, the program that uses blockchain, machine learning and artificial intelligence to streamline acquisition by delivering detailed, real-time information on pricing and terms and conditions from across HHS for 10 categories of purchases.

“We are using our machine learning to connect contract five systems,” Arrieta said. “Machine learning algorithms are cleansing the data from the data layer” before it is fed into the blockchain.

The HHS team has built a "proof of concept using artificial intelligence for cost logic and form selectors" that addresses challenges contracting professionals face, he said.

The whole effort was developed via two-week sprints that allowed developers to show results and get feedback from interested stakeholders. Arrieta said the return on the initial investment is estimated at 800 percent.

“I’m investing in a series of capabilities to drive enterprise output, but I’ve fully invested in the return on investment first so if the project is killed tomorrow, it is going to generate a return on investment where it is easily going to pay for itself,” he said. “At the lowest level, I [now] have a tool that can you give insight on prices, terms and conditions and help you negotiate better prices.”

The HHS team is also looking into ways to enhance Continuous Diagnostics and Mitigation via a microservice within HHS Accelerate.

“We are looking at ways to improve the security posture of our system,” Arrieta said.  “We think blockchain creates a unique opportunity for us to take the principles of CDM and execute it in a more suitable fashion.”

Arrieta also expressed an interest in adding more robotic process automation into HHS Accelerate once the ATO is approved.  “We think that the return on RPA through the data layer that is shared across HHS is huge compared to putting RPA on existing systems,” he said.

However, Arrieta said if other agencies decide to implement the techniques developed by his team without the appropriate acquisition data taxonomy, they could face challenges. His team isn’t interested in developing HHS Accelerate as a shared service, he said, but they are committed to working with other agencies to make the transition as smooth as possible using the same taxonomy.

On Dec. 12, HHS is holding a demo of HHS Accelerate to get feedback from industry on the project.  Interested parties should respond to an announcement posted on FedBizOpps.

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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