Critical Update: What a Treasury Office is Learning from Its Blockchain Projects

Inside the Fiscal Service Bureau’s Office of Financial Innovation and Transformation, or FIT, almost two dozen Treasury Department officials explore emerging and evolving technologies that are still buzzy and on-the-rise today—but could be scaled across the federal government in the not-so-distant future.

The inaugural episode of the seventh season of Nextgov’s Critical Update podcast dives deep into that work, which lately places a sharp focus on artificial intelligence, end-to-end efficiencies and blockchain technology.

“Our blockchain work actually originated back in 2017, when we were considering different technologies that we wanted to look further into, and blockchain has become really a very notable emerging capability,” explained Adam Goldberg, the acting assistant commissioner of FIT, who has been with the office since the very first day it originated, in 2010. “We wanted to look at it because it had a lot of benefits, including greater efficiency, transparency, automation, and resiliency—and so we really wanted to look further into those benefits.”

Goldberg and the team have learned a great deal about the decentralized, digital recording tool since that time. He offered a look into previous blockchain-centered efforts leading up to the team’s present work, which hones in on the technology’s potential to track how federal grant payments are distributed out to the right recipients. Deloitte is also supporting the effort.

Among other topics, Goldberg detailed how it could all one day advance the government’s issuance of grant-based funding—and provided a peek into the tech that underpins the project.

“There was no blockchain that I went out and purchased at the local blockchain store. This was a capability that we developed along with our industry partner, and we put that together based on the needs of what the community was looking for,” he said.

The office is also puzzling out potential uses for artificial intelligence in the realm of treasury warrants, and over the next year, insiders plan to work on further digitizing and automating full end to end processes—both of which he highlighted. When deploying innovative new tools, Goldberg said it’s critical for agency insiders to identify relevant use cases before jumping all the way in.

“It’s finding the right examples, and making sure it’s the right technology for that scenario,” he explained.

With many years of federal service under his belt, Goldberg has also gained unique insights into change management, and the hurdles that can sometimes come with implementing these novel, and at times disruptive tech solutions. He reflected on some of those learnings, during the conversation.

“One of the challenging things that we’re facing is that there’s a lot of things that agencies are being asked to do today. And when we bring these new capabilities to the table, the agencies are trying to fit this within all their existing portfolios, and all the existing priorities that they have,” Goldberg said. “But what I’ve also learned is that over time, people will become more open to these things.”

Listen to the full episode below or download and subscribe on your favorite podcast platform, including Apple Podcasts and Google Play.