18F is a digital services agency built on the lean startup model and based within the United States federal government. Their purpose is to support agencies in transforming the way they deliver digital services and technology products.
18F is a digital services agency based within the United States' General Services Administration. The group makes digital products for government organizations and uses lean startup methods, open source code, and contemporary programming languages. Its name refers to its office location in northwest Washington, D.C., on 18th and F Streets. 18F is within the Office of Citizen Services and Innovative Technologies (OCSIT) and runs in parallel with the Digital Government Strategy's Digital Services Innovation (DSI) Center.
In addition to its Washington, D.C office, the agency has offices in New York, San Francisco, Chicago, and Dayton, Ohio.
The group was started following multiple problems in the rollout of the HealthCare.gov health insurance marketplace, which began an effort to reform citizen-facing government technology. The United Kingdom created a similar agency, Government Digital Service, following their own healthcare website issues, which saves an estimated $20 million a year over previous methods. 18F runs on a cost recovery model where client agencies reimburse the digital agency for its work. Their operation is closer to a traditional business than government organizations like the DSI Center.
18F's creation was announced by GSA Administrator Dan Tangherlini on March 19, 2014 with a mission to simplify the government's digital services, but no project-specific directive. The agency started with 15 employees, including 11 former Presidential Innovation Fellows from both the private and public sectors. The staff previously worked in front and backend development, design and usability, and product management. The Verge's Adrienne Jeffries reported that the agency released a GSA website code update in a half hour, which would normally take weeks or longer. She added that the team did not appear equipped to handle a rollout similar to that of HealthCare.gov.
Upon its opening, 18F began to host the Presidential Innovation Fellows program that started in May 2012 in the Digital Government Strategy. An initial list of projects will be drafted in the months following the agency's creation. A possible program called FBOpen, an open source small business and federal contractor interface for bidding on government contracts, was discussed at a Senate Homeland Security and Government Affairs hearing.
On March 19, 2015, 18F and collaborators launched analytics.usa.gov. On September 12, 2015, the group launched the College Scorecard. Other projects of 18F have included myRA for the U.S. Department of the Treasury, Every Kid in a Park for the U.S. Department of the Interior, and MyUSA for the General Services Administration, in addition to redesigned websites for the PeaceCorps and Federal Election Commission. All of its projects are open source, meaning anyone can review and suggest updates to the code.
The existence of the agency in general and such projects in particular has led to resistance from established government IT firms. In addition, the agency faces the additional challenge of staying fiscally solvent. According to a recent GAO report, 18F is currently spending on average more than $1 million per month more than it recovers. In 2016 alone, the group will receive approximately $33 million for its services, but will spend almost $48 million. 18F is not expected to break even until at least fiscal year 2019.