President Biden is expected to sign an executive order on Monday that would make it easier for Americans to access a broad swath of federal services and benefits, like renewing a passport or accessing retirement benefits.
“This executive order is really focused on how the federal government delivers services to the public and ensuring that we deliver a high quality product to the public,” Neera Tanden, senior advisor to the president, told reporters on a press call on Monday. “So, we looked at the points of greatest friction for people with their government like filing taxes, applying for Social Security benefits, waiting in TSA lines, and focused on ways to reduce that friction.”
The executive order streamlines government services that have traditionally been difficult for Americans to access. Many government services, like retirement, force people to interact with several federal agencies at once to receive benefits, creating significant administrative burden on both aid recipients and the federal workforce. A more streamlined system could make it easier for people to receive certain services and benefits, bringing the government closer to the standard of online services from the private sector.
The White House released a fact sheet detailing the order on Monday, writing that the order targets 36 different “customer experiences” across 17 federal agencies for improvement. In the order, Biden promises to revamp USA.gov, brandishing it as a “digital Federal front door” for people seeking access to government services.
Federal agencies will be required to publicly report their progress in developing and launching these new processes and services.
“The Federal Government interacts with millions of people each day and provides vital services during some of the most critical moments in people’s lives,” the fact sheet said. “But too often, people have to navigate a tangled web of Government websites, offices, and phone numbers to access the services they depend on.”
Outside of retirement and disaster relief, the order also promises “shorter security and check-in lines at airports” and better access to federal student loan management. On Monday’s call, senior White House officials did not go into detail on any new technologies that would be used by the TSA, but Tanden said “biometric scanning” may be something the government decides to implement.
“[The order] organizes our reform efforts around life experiences, like retiring, having a child, or surviving a natural disaster. Those are moments where people, where individuals, may need to interact with the federal government in a really critical way in that critical moment, but also may need to interact with multiple agencies,” Jason Miller, deputy director for management at the office of Management and Budget, told reporters on Monday. “That’s a process that should be simple and seamless. We’re one enterprise and we should operate accordingly.”
The federal government has struggled to make efficient online experiences for Americans seeking benefits, most notably the Obama administration’s bumpy healthcare.gov rollout in 2013. At the time, users were unable to make accounts, and others received miscalculated healthcare subsidies. In the wake of that debacle, then-President Obama founded the US Digital Service, which has since launched new systems for Medicare payments and VA discharge forms. The Biden administration’s new order would bring that work to a much greater scale, potentially touching every citizen-facing agency in the federal government in some way.
“The President is making sure we’re building accountability and transparency into everything we do and that we’re good stewards of taxpayer dollars,” the fact sheet said. “As the President has said: ‘We have to prove democracy still works, that our government still works and can deliver for our people.’”