The role of “bureaucracy hackers” in government

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Jonathan Mostowski, acquisition strategist & bureaucracy hacker at the U.S. Digital Service, discusses his role navigating the procurement process, and how agencies should “start small” when embarking on major projects.


The Department of Defense is always looking to acquire the latest and greatest pieces of military technology, but with the current acquisition systems in place, that’s easier said than done. It’s the job of “bureaucracy hackers” at the department to use existing procurement methods to quickly get war fighters what they need.

 

“You have to think of bureaucracy as the body’s immune system. The immune system… isn’t inherently evil. It is there to protect the organization or the body from things it is not used to. Bureaucracy is the same way. Without it we have chaos and nothing would get done,” said Jonathan Mostowski, acquisition strategist & bureaucracy hacker at the U.S. Digital Service. “It’ll allow a little bit of something new, a new foreign behavior into the system. But once it starts to take hold, it resists again, sometimes in a very difficult matter to get it out of the system… [Bureaucracy hacking] is finding the rules, understanding them deeply and then finding ways to strategically get the next best approach moving forward.”