Sen. Warner says federal technology is catching up

It will take the federal government five years to be 70 percent as efficient as the private sector, Sen. Mark Warner (D-Va.) told a gathering on Capitol Hill Tuesday.

Speaking at an event hosted by The Hill and sponsored by Visa, the former governor of Virginia said Washington faced enormous challenges but was finally making strides in the right direction.

And the transition presents opportunities for dramatic improvement in the way the government operates.

"If we set a goal [for the federal government] of 70 percent of what private sector standards ought to be, that could be something that could be within a five-year time frame," Warner said.

Warner, a former telecom executive and governor from 2002 to 2006, said federal chief technology officer Aneesh Chopra and federal chief information officer Vivek Kundra, with chief performance officer Jeffrey Zients, are making progress. And he hailed the government's recent embrace of direct deposit and digital payments as a sign of improvement.

"That's one of the things that gives me hope in this administration, and OMB announced this will only be the beginning," Warner said. "I think it will not only save the $300 million OMB has estimated, but it's also one more piece of evidence of the culture change, that the federal government is starting to catch up and use these tools." 

He also pointed to a recent effort by Kundra and Chopra to increase the amount of information available to people applying for visas or checking their immigration status with the Immigration and Naturalization Service.

"It seems like low-hanging fruit, but it makes one of the more painful operations in the government more user-friendly," Warner said. "We want to see this across the board."

West Virginia’s state auditor, Glen Gainer, told the audience that digital currency had helped him save taxpayer money and balance state budgets.

This post was updated at 4:52 p.m.