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Answer from Matt Cutts, U.S. Digital Service | Defense Digital Service:

The Defense Digital Service is part of a larger organization called the United States Digital Service. The USDS started almost exactly two years ago as a startup at the White House. Since then, it’s grown to a network of teams throughout the federal government.

08_18_digitaldefense_01 The Defense Digital Service is a small team that helps solve problems for the Department of Defense, Matt Cutts writes. Matt Cutts

Ash Carter, the secretary of defense, stood up the Defense Digital Service. The Defense Digital Service tries to bring good ideas, folks and practices from industry to help solve problems for Department of Defense. It’s a small team (15 or 16 people), but we’ve got engineers, bureaucracy hackers, designers and project managers. We’re physically located in the Pentagon, which is pretty wild for someone used to wearing shorts and a T-shirt to work. I still wear shorts and a T-shirt most days. 

As far as projects, an early effort discovered and fixed a problem where thousands of medical records for veterans were getting silently dropping on the floor if a doctor selected the wrong dropdown when scanning a document. Another project called Hack the Pentagon was the first bug bounty program in the federal government. Folks in industry know that paying for security vulnerabilities can make products more secure, but the U.S. government hadn’t really caught on to bug bounties before. That project alone has the potential to protect millions of citizens.

The Defense Digital Service is also helping with part of the next-generation GPS system, and they’re also working to replace a tool called the Defense Travel System that the military uses for booking travel. One of my colleagues says that for people looking to improve things, “it’s not a target-rich environment; it’s an environment made of targets.” So one of the challenges is narrowing down the projects that would have the most impact, but also have a solid chance of success.

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