Ex-bureaucrat says fraud can be cut and fed’s broken digital ID management fixed
A former U.S. government official writing about meaningfully minimizing fraud perpetrated at the federal and state levels has accomplished something truly unexpected.
The official, Jordan Burris, former federal chief information officer, used the success and failure of Washington’s COVID-19 stimulus payments to illustrate the need for a national digital identity verification strategy. And he did it in fewer than 600 words.
Burris worked as White House CIO in the previous Republican administration as well as the current President Joe Biden administration. Today, he is a senior director of product market strategy for the public sector at digital ID verification vendor Socure.
In an opinion piece published by Technical.ly, Burris said it was close to a miracle that the federal government was able to distribute a monumental amount of money to individuals and businesses as quickly as it did. But the effort also resulted in equally monumental amounts of fraud as people and companies made bogus claims.
“The way the US has approached consumer’ identity management is fundamentally flawed and broken,” he writes. Fixed, Washington can move support into the economy fast and hold fraud attempts to a minimum.
For instance, a national campaign with focus and momentum is needed, Burris writes. All governments agencies need to coordinate antifraud efforts, possibly through a new national center of excellence that identifies trouble and likely strategies and shares them widely.
Mandating a national digital ID might help in this battle, but politically, it may never happen in the United States, and Burris does not recommend it. That should not stop the federal government from cajoling states into digitizing the core documents used for ID verification: driving licenses, birth certificates and Social Security cards.
U.S. agencies also should give ID verifiers access to government data to use as standards. Burris suggests that these organizations could do their critical fraud-fighting tasks faster if they could check Social Security, taxpayer, alien registration and passport numbers.
And, significantly, he calls on the federal government to make ID management services a critical infrastructure. This and the other steps could make the current system’s current soft spots — poor ID and access management controls — less of an easily hit bull’s eye.