GSA Picks Second Agency to Get Centers of Excellence Support

Mark Van Scyoc/

The next agency will focus on IT and modernization for business processes and accounting.

The General Services Administration announced Tuesday that the Housing and Urban Development Department would be the second agency to work with its Centers of Excellence, a high-profile initiative that came out of early administration discussions at the White House.

The Centers of Excellence initiative launched last year to help create a repeatable model of innovation and modernization that other agencies could learn from. The pilot agency, the Agriculture Department, focused on five areas: customer experience, cloud adoption, infrastructure optimization, contact centers and service delivery analytics.

As Agriculture moves into its second phase—longer-term implementation over the next few years—by the end of the month, HUD will take its place at the starting line.

“Today’s announcement further demonstrates the strength, success and momentum that the CoEs have already brought to bear in less than a year,” GSA Administrator Emily Murphy said in an announcement Tuesday. “I couldn’t be more excited to build upon the work we have begun with USDA by implementing these best practices at an agency as customer-focused and citizen-facing as HUD.”

In the statement, HUD Secretary Ben Carson said the partnership with GSA will enable the department to “embark upon a campaign to modernize our aging technology and bring true financial integrity to everything we do.”

HUD officials said technology will have a prominent place throughout the modernization efforts, as IT is a prime driver of business operations

“In partnering with GSA's CoEs, HUD’s business needs are our primary focus,” HUD Chief Information Officer David Chow said. “This first phase of the CoE will be led by program office experts with full IT support to streamline business processes and enhance taxpayers’ overall experience.”

Agriculture similarly focused on IT renovations with a business case, such as consolidating from 39 data centers to two and shifting workloads to the cloud. The department also looked at improving customer-facing products with artificial intelligence and automation in call centers and launched, a customer portal for scheduling appointments and applying for loans.

The experience has led to a fundamental cultural change at the agency, according to Agriculture CIO Gary Washington.

“This is a massive undertaking,” he said during a panel discussion in May. “It’s not just about IT. It’s about changing the culture for us—asking people to think differently about how they receive services and how they deliver services. The Centers of Excellence have come in and started a cultural intervention at USDA.”