OMB Announces Permanent U.S. Digital Service Leadership

Matt Cutts of U.S. Digital Service

Matt Cutts of U.S. Digital Service Michael Dorausch/Flickr

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The roles will now have two-year term limits and will no longer be presidential appointees.

The acting leaders of the federal government’s technology tiger team—the U.S. Digital Service—have been officially promoted.

As of Monday evening, Matt Cutts had the “acting” removed from his title to become the official USDS administrator. His deputy, Eddie Hartwig, was made official, as well. The change will be relatively short-lived, however, as the positions have been reassigned from political appointments to “career and non-political senior-level positions” with two-year term limits, according to the Office of Management and Budget.

Cutts joined USDS in 2016 for a one-year tour of duty helping the federal government build better digital systems—the kind of stint the program was designed for. Cutts stayed on after his tour ended and in 2017 was named acting administrator.

“It's been an honor to work with great partners and colleagues throughout the federal government,” Cutts told Nextgov in a statement.

Prior to his time in government, Cutts spent 17 years as an engineer with Google.

Hartwig has been with USDS for more than two years and was named acting deputy administrator in June 2017, according to his LinkedIn page. Before that, he worked as a speechwriter and adviser to the U.S. ambassador to Austria and spent nine years as a foreign service officer at the State Department.

He also spent two years as a public defender in Massachusetts and has a law degree from Tulane University.

Despite not having a technical background, Hartwig was eager to use what skills he had to improve how agencies interact with citizens and provide services.

“USDS is designed to bring together the best of the private sector technology industry and also the best of government,” he said in an interview with Nextgov after the announcement. “I think the reason I was brought on board is because I was able to get things done in government. … Technology is not always the hardest part. The hardest part is getting the buy-in and getting everybody on the same page to move forward.”

While Cutts and Hartwig now occupy senior level positions, they will not be part of the Senior Executive Service, Hartwig said. But the move to career positions instead of political appointments “really highlights the non-partisan nature of our work,” he said.

Hartwig also said he is in favor of the two-year term limits for the positions.

“Matt and I are just like everybody else at USDS. I didn’t join to be the deputy administrator. I joined to serve and to do my best and so this is the role I ended up in,” he said. “It’s right and good that a couple years from now someone will take over from us and carry on the tradition.”

Together, Cutts and Hartwig “bring a wealth of experience and leadership to their positions and will play a critical role in the government’s mission of modernizing citizen services,” Margaret Weichert, OMB deputy director for management and acting director of the Office of Personnel Management, said in a statement. “Matt, Eddie and the USDS team provide technology leadership to transform services to American citizens, like improving access to veterans benefits online at vets.gov. They will add tremendous value as we execute the vision of the President’s Management Agenda.”

Editor's Note: This story has been updated to include comments from Matt Cutts and Eddie Hartwig, and to fix incorrect titles provided by OMB.