2024 Management Excellence

Amira Choueiki Boland

Pioneered policies to improve government services and the customer experience in areas ranging from newborn care and disaster assistance to renewing passports online.

At critical moments in their lives, Americans turning to the federal government often must navigate burdensome paperwork, balky websites and siloed agencies that do not communicate. That’s changing because of Amira Boland, the Office of Management and Budget’s first-ever customer experience lead. 

Boland has pioneered policies, empowered agency public servants and built teams working to improve services for people going through key life events like retirement, the transition out of the military, childbirth, disaster recovery and financial crises.  

“Amira is at the nerve center of trying to make sure that all those interactions serve people’s needs and reduce stress for individuals during high-anxiety moments,” said Jason Miller, OMB deputy director for management. 

During nearly six years and two administrations, Boland has used her platform at OMB to work with 38 High Impact Service Providers—federal entities that provide services to millions of Americans every year—to gather customer feedback and identify areas for improvement. In 2022 and 2023, that led to streamlined Medicare enrollment, simplified online disaster assistance applications, and a new pilot program allowing eligible applicants to renew U.S. passports online.  

She was also a “driving force” behind the development of a 2021 executive order to improve the customer experience, agency interactions and public trust in government, Miller said. “Amira Boland has permanently transformed the way federal agencies deliver services and benefits to the American people—and the way Americans view their government,” he said.  

Developing more customer-focused services 

To better serve people and improve delivery, Boland developed a new “life experiences” model that orients agency programs around people’s actual experience to prioritize where the government focuses improvements, rather than rely on preconceived policy solutions.  

One of the most successful pilots to emerge from Boland’s model is a newborn supply kit that an interagency team developed in collaboration with the nonprofit Baby2Baby. The team partnered with community organizations to distribute more than 3,000 kits across Arkansas, Louisiana and New Mexico—three states experiencing substantial levels of family poverty and maternal vulnerability. Supplies include essentials for the first month of life, including diapers, blankets and wipes, plus maternal items like ice packs, nipple cream and nursing pads. Many items aren’t otherwise covered by programs like Medicaid.  

Customer feedback has been overwhelmingly positive, especially among Spanish-speaking families. 

Boosting public trust 

The customer experience efforts driven by OMB offer agencies a roadmap to rebuild trust in government. For example, recipients of the newborn supply kits said their trust in government rose, said Caryn Marks, the project lead based at the Department of Health and Human Services.  

“Two-thirds of people said this alleviated stress from an emotional and financial perspective, which is awesome,” she said. “After participants received their kits, their trust in government scores more than doubled to a 64% positive rating.” 

New initiatives from the life experiences portfolios slated for 2024 include making it easier for eligible seniors to obtain housing assistance, facilitating faster and more accurate income verification for participants in Medicaid, helping people get food assistance, and developing a new personalized digital tool to enable a smoother transition to civilian life for service members.  

Miller said Boland deserves credit for helping to build a government-wide architecture that is driving better perceptions of federal services.  

Overall satisfaction with these services has improved to levels not seen since before the COVID-19 pandemic, up 7% in the past two years, while views on the professionalism of customer service agents, and the efficiency and ease of government processes, grew more than 8% and 6%, respectively, in 2023.  

“This is not just something we’re doing in Washington, D.C., and inside the bubble—it really is making its way down to impacting people’s lives,” said Dustin Brown, deputy assistant director for management at OMB. “I’ve never seen another person do a better job of moving the entire federal government forward on an issue.”  

Boland was inspired by her father’s three decades of public service in the U.S. after he emigrated from Lebanon during its civil war. She was also fascinated by the TV political drama “The West Wing” and realized that, in government, she could have an impact on people’s lives.  

“I work with all the parts of government that people get to see … and try to make that better,” she said. “For people to believe in democracy, they must see their basic day-to-day needs and functions being met by their government.”  

Boland received a special honor at the 2021 executive order signing. President Joe Biden used 11 pens. Ten went to agency leaders.  

The 11th went to Boland.