Government Agency

18F

Website:

18f.gsa.gov

Location:

Washington, DC

Formation:

2014

Acting Executive Director:

Brian Whittaker

Type:

Digital Services Agency

Parent Agency:

General Services Administration

18F is a federal agency within the United States General Services Administration that provides technology and technology-related consulting services to other U.S. government organizations and agencies. Critics of the agency maintain that it hinders the profitability of private technology firms, which the government would ostensibly otherwise contract in lieu of working with 18F.

Background

18F derives its name from the location of the building that houses its main office within the General Services Administration Building in Washington, DC at the intersection of 18th and F Street. Aside from its main office in D.C., the agency also has offices in New York, San Francisco, and Chicago. [1]

Following the failures associated with the initial rollout of HeatlthCare.gov, the health insurance exchange website created and managed by the government pursuant to the provisions of the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act (popularly known as “Obamacare”), President Barack Obama charged then-U.S. Chief Technology Officer Todd Park with cultivating systematic technological expertise within the federal government. Working alongside other officials in the General Services Administration and fellows in the White House Presidential Innovation Fellows Program, Park developed the concept of an agency which would improve federal information technology management and advise and strategize on federal technology buying, building, contracting, and inter-agency sharing. [2][3]

On March 19, 2014, then-GSA Administrator Dan Tangherlini announced the program’s launch. Quickly, the program, which was given the name 18F, became notable for employing many features typical to small Silicon Valley startups, such as using open-source code, working with independent freelancers, and working with newer programming languages. In that vein, the agency funds itself in part though charging the other governmental agencies and organizations with which its works in much the same way that a private firm would. [4]

Criticsm

Established information technology firms, which prior to 18F’s creation provided many of the same services to the government that 18F currently does, have criticized the agency’s existence as an economically unhealthy intervention into the market. At a congressional hearing hosted jointly by the House Subcommittees of Government Operations and Information Technology on June 10, 2016, representatives from the IT Alliance for the Public Sector, a trade group representing firms such as IBM, SAP, Xerox, and Microsoft, as  well as the Software and Industry Information Association, a trade group that includes firms such as Cisco, Accenture, and Adobe, testified that 18F hindered private tech firms’ profitability. [5]

Activities

In January 2014, 18F helped to develop the tech supporting myRA a program of the United States Treasury, which provided a sort of government-sponsored Roth IRA account to people who could afford only relatively small monthly contributions. Due to a lack of participation and the costs associated with maintaining it, the Treasury began phasing out myRA in July 2017 and by the following December, new deposits were no longer being accepted. [6][7]

In March 2015, 18F along with the General Services Administration’s Digital Analytics program, launched analytics.usa.gov, a United States government website that provides data to the government and public regarding public interactions with popular government websites, such as the websites of the Centers for Disease Control, United States Postal Service, and IRS. [8]

In September 2015, 18F helped create College Scorecard, an online tool of the U.S. Department of Education, which allows consumers to compare the cost and quality of various universities in the United States. [9]

Starting in 2015, 18F has provided tech support for the Every Kid in a Park program, a program of the United States National Park Service created by President Barack Obama and still in effect, which provides free park admission to fourth graders. [10]

Brian Whittaker

Brian Whittaker is the acting Executive Director of 18F, a role that he has occupied since February 2020, when the agency’s former director Angela Colter finished her term. Previously, Whittaker was the deputy executive director of the General Services Administration’s Center for Excellence Initiative, an initiative intended to accelerate information technology modernization across federal agencies. [11]

References

  1. “What is 18F?” GovTech. August 8, 2016. Accessed May 4, 2020. https://www.govtech.com/What-is-18F.html ^
  2. “What is 18F?” GovTech. August 8, 2016. Accessed May 4, 2020. https://www.govtech.com/What-is-18F.html ^
  3. Castro, Daniel. “The Rise and Fall of 18F.” FedSCoop. February 6, 2018. Accessed May 24, 2020. https://www.fedscoop.com/rise-fall-18f/ ^
  4. “What is 18F?” GovTech. August 8, 2016. Accessed May 4, 2020. https://www.govtech.com/What-is-18F.html ^
  5. Shueh, Jason. “IT Showdown: Tech Giants Face Off Against 18F” GovTech. July 1, 2016. Accessed May 24, 2020. https://www.govtech.com/civic/IT-Showdown-Tech-Giants-Face-Off-Against-18F.html ^
  6. Lobosco, Katie. “Treasury ends the myRA, Obama’s retirement savings program.” CNN Money. July 28, 2017. Accessed May 24, 2020. https://money.cnn.com/2017/07/28/retirement/treasury-myra-retirement-account/index.html ^
  7. Finch, Jay; Chris Cairns. “Announcing 18F Consulting’s Digital Economy Practice.” 18F. October 7, 2015. Accessed May 24, 2020. https://18f.gsa.gov/2015/10/07/digital-economy-practice/ ^
  8. Fox, Marina; Gwynne Kostin. “Five factors for building a successful government-wide digital analytics program.” 18F. October 20, 2015. Accessed May 24, 2020. https://18f.gsa.gov/2015/10/20/digital-analytics-program-anniversary/ ^
  9. Salazar Foreman, Dahianna; Andre Francisco. “TTS projects forward Open Government Partnership principles.” 18F. December 15, 2016. Accessed May 24, 2020. https://18f.gsa.gov/2016/12/15/tts-projects-forward-open-government-partnership-principles/ ^
  10. Barnes, Emileigh. “How to design a government site for kids.” 18F. September 3, 2015. Accessed May 24, 2020. https://18f.gsa.gov/2015/09/03/every-kid-in-a-park/ ^
  11. Chappellet-Lanier, Tajha. “Brian Whittaker takes over as acting executive director of 18F.” fedscoop. February 10, 2020. Accessed May 23, 2020. http://www.fedscoop.com/brian-whittaker-acting-director-18f-gsa/ ^
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18F


Washington, DC