Exclusive: US Congressional Watchdog on Prototyping Smart Contracts

The supreme audit institution of the United States, the Government Accountability Office (GAO), posted two job positions with its Innovation Lab concerning the development of prototype applications for blockchain technology during March.

Cointelegraph spoke to Chuck Young, the managing director of public affairs at GAO, to find out more about the agency’s interest in distributed ledger technologies, or DLT.

GAO to refine auditing processes for blockchain

Young stated that GAO’s primary application for blockchain will be as “a digital financial ledger” — indicating that the chief auditor is planning to use blockchain to move value.

GAO has also identified “supply chain logistics and contract management” as “potentially useful applications [for] distributed ledger technologies.” The adoption of smart contracts in the legislative branch could streamline many fundamental governance processes.

“As a key player within the federal government’s oversight community, we are very interested in exploring key features of blockchain technologies that enhance transparency and security.”

The agency will also use the project as an opportunity to strengthen its auditing processes for blockchain transactions, with Young stating: “GAO will need to take incremental steps to better understand how it could audit blockchain technologies when asked to do so by the Congress.”

GAO to engage federal agencies with experience in DLT

Before applying blockchain to any specific applications, Young stated that “GAO will conduct initial discovery work” in DLT.

The congressional watchdog will examine the current state of blockchain technologies, the trajectory of their development, and the computational resources required to facilitate scalable deployment of DLT-based systems.

Additionally, Young notes that GAO will also engage with other federal agencies that have prototyped applications for blockchain in order to discuss the lessons they have learned from their trials.

GAO has been examining blockchain since 2013

While GAO’s exploration into blockchain will occur within the context of the Innovation Lab of its Technology Assessment, and Analytics (STAA) team — which was established in January 2019, the agency has conducted audit work concerning DLT from as early as 2013.

Looking forward, Young expects that GAO’s “oversight work around blockchain technologies” will continue to grow.

“GAO will evaluate future plans on blockchain technologies once we have completed our initial prototyping efforts” he adds.