GSA Wants a Digital Federal Staff Directory

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Ideally, users could search for equivalent employees across agencies.

The General Services Administration is kicking off a project to standardize contact information from agency employees.

The program would publish basic information, including email and office address, for civil servants, GSA's Technology Transformation Service's data portfolio lead said at a conference in Washington on Thursday. (TTS includes digital consultancy 18F and the Office of Citizen Services and Innovative Technologies.)

The goal is to "create a baseline of staff and offices and services across and agencies," not only to help employees find each other, but also to help citizens "think less about the traditional organizational structure" of the government, and focus more on the services specific people provide, Philip Ashlock said.

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About 40 percent of large federal agencies already publish directories for staff, he said. GSA's new project builds on work from the National Archives, and the U.S. Government Manual that maps the mission of various agencies. GSA created a Federal Agency Directory API, and is planning to expand this to more specific levels within organizations and eventually to complete staff directories.

The House of Representatives has already published its own staff directory in a machine-readable format, he said.

GSA is trying to be careful to not violate employee privacy, most of the information is already public—though often very difficult to find online, Ashlock said.

"We don't want to be taking the sort of 'security through obscurity" approach," he said.