The Justice Department is embracing a culture of innovation by balancing continuous customer engagement and offering scalable solutions to address agency needs.
To develop a culture of innovation, DOJ Deputy CIO Kevin Cox said during an FCW event that the Office of the CIO has adopted a four-step process:
- Establishing a clear understanding of the customers’ problems or needs;
- Collaborating openly with customers and team members to generate ideas and solutions;
- Starting small, experimenting with rapid solutions to see how OCIO can bring value to customers; and
- Scaling and multiplying the innovation across the enterprise.
“We’ve really worked within our organization — not just within the Justice Management Division but also in supporting and working with all of our component customers — this idea of an innovative culture in bringing these principles to bear throughout the organization,” Cox said.
Through this approach, DOJ has introduced several technological services, such as robotic process automation, data visualization, data architecture, automated litigation support and more. Cox highlighted programs like the FBI Shark Tank as key examples of how DOJ is fielding different small solutions to eventually scale and apply across larger parts of the agency and its components.
DOJ has also taken its four-step approach to developing better digital tools for services the agency provides, such as in the grants it awards. Cox explained that his team engaged with the different grant-making organizations within DOJ to create JustGrants, a single portal for grants management and payment management systems. Now, JustGrants provides resources for applicants looking to receive grants with the Office of Community Oriented Policy Services, Office of Justice Programs and the Office on Violence Against Women.
Cox also shared that his office has helped the Civil Rights Division by providing the online tools for people across the country to report potential civil rights violations and connect those reports to proper DOJ investigators and law enforcement officers.
Although these were examples of recent strides DOJ has made in recent years, Cox explained that there technologies that his team is hoping to introduce across more areas of the agency. In particular, he said he believes that there are many use cases for RPA adoption across DOJ.
“By applying RPA, being able to automate a whole lot of steps in the processes so that we don’t need human interaction to keep the process running, that human interaction can be applied elsewhere until we get the efficiencies of the automation and can focus elsewhere on the other needs of the organization,” Cox said.
Part of DOJ’s growth in innovation also comes with security. The agency is looking to meet Office of Business and Management mandates and White House executive orders around zero trust, so Cox is working on replacing DOJ’s former network security approach. In its place, Cox wants to build a zero trust architecture that focuses on individual applications and ensures that people within the department have proper access to the right resources.
“We’re no longer focused on the physical network so much as looking at the identity of the user and the idea of identity as the perimeter,” Cox said. “[We] continue to focus on privileged access management, making sure that we minimize the number of privileged users, that we’re aware of those that remain, what the have access to and what actions they’re taking—ensuring remote and biometric identity proofing to enhance government-to-citizen, government-to-business.”
While Cox’s team is largely focusing on the future of RPA and ZTA, he added that other recent priorities have included establishing a data strategy and building out DOJ’s data catalogue, as well as supporting broader access and use of geographic information systems. AI, metadata, and models are also critical pieces to DOJ’s work, and the agency is also hoping to establishing ethical principles of AI in the near future.