Early Results Show HHS Can BUYSMARTER

Published: August 30, 2018

Acquisition ReformAcquisition WorkforceContracting TrendsHHS

HHS is in the beginning stages of using AI, blockchain and microservices to gain efficiencies and reduce costs in acquisitions. The HHS’ Program Support Center used IBM’s Watson computer to develop a proof of concept that is now delivering significant information on HHS contract spending habits. Called the BUYSMARTER Acquisitions Initiative, HHS used machine learning algorithms to cleanse the data from five contract writing systems across the department, then layered it with blockchain technolog

HHS’ Jose Arrieta, Associate Deputy Assistant Secretary for Acquisitions at HHS, spoke recently in a July podcast about the success of the BUYSMARTER initiative and another project built on its foundation called HHS Accelerate. The BUYSMARTER program is a machine learning algorithm that provides much of the analysis for the real-time pricing insights generated by Accelerate.   

Arrieta said that a major impetus for both projects was to “create insights to drive costs down for mission operations so they can put more money into protecting human lives.”  HHS wanted to get a view of what was occurring in their contracts across the decentralized department organizations. They layered the five contract writing systems across the department with blockchain technology. They used machine learning algorithms to cleanse the data and then brought it into the blockchain.  They rolled a million contract records; terms and conditions; and pricing onto hyperledger fabric to create a data layer.  The five contract writing systems are still functioning, but now they can create analytical insights without interrupting the way they currently do business. 

They plan to build microservices off the data layer to execute specific actions.  One microservice that they built is AI-based using natural language processing and machine learning to analyze prices paid, and read through terms and conditions of a contract. Now in real time on 10 product categories across the department, the system can give the range of prices paid, and the different terms and conditions for differing price ranges with in the span of one second. 

The Accelerate system was developed between April and July with only $500,000 spent to date. It is functioning, but it’s not in production yet. Full user testing is planned for the end of the fiscal year.

For more information on the federal acquisition landscape and other innovative procurement practices, see Deltek’s Federal Acquisition Landscape:  Trends and Issues, 2018 report planned for publication at the end of this week.