As the department that interacts more frequently on a daily basis with the American public than any other Federal agency, the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) recently announced that it has reduced the total amount of time the public spends accessing its services by 20 million hours annually.

DHS Secretary Alejandro Mayorkas set this goal in 2022 to build a more equitable and accessible experience for DHS customers.

“Improving the customer experience is one of the Department’s top priorities. Through the tremendous talent and dedication of our personnel, we have made great strides in doing so,” Secretary Mayorkas said in a statement. “There is much more work to be done. We will continue to find new ways to modernize services and harness technology to improve efficiency, equity, and accessibility in everything that we do.”

DHS said it reached this milestone by simplifying online paperwork processes; enabling online submission of forms; and pre-populating forms and reusing data. Initiatives that have contributed to the department reaching the burden reduction milestone include:

  • Improving credentialing processes for transportation workers: the Transportation Security Administration reduced the total time transportation workers spend reapplying for the Transportation Worker Identification Credential program by enabling online renewals, rather than requiring in-person visits;
  • Strengthening fire safety nationwide: the Federal Emergency Management Agency saved users of the National Fire Incident Reporting System a collective 2.81 million hours by using type-ahead features and replacing legacy stand-alone software with online submissions of forms;
  • Reducing timeframe for transporting cargo: U.S. Customs and Border Protection streamlined the process for transporting cargo into the U.S. via ocean vessels by transitioning to the use of pre-populated data and reuse of existing data. These changes have cut the time to submit required information to five minutes, rather than up to three hours; and
  • Improving the student and exchange visitors experience: U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement improved the application experience for all students and exchange visitors by pre-filling fields, sharing data between related collections, facilitating electronic information sharing and automatic fee transfers, and building responsive, mobile-friendly experiences.

“The Department will continue to take proactive steps to ensure the public can efficiently access the services and programs it offers, including by increasing transparency and accessibility through policy and regulatory changes, and improving the digital experience for DHS customers,” it said.

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Cate Burgan
Cate Burgan
Cate Burgan is a MeriTalk Senior Technology Reporter covering the intersection of government and technology.