What Is The Future of 18F?

After another scathing inspector general (IG) report about the 18F program at the General Services Administration, it seems like perhaps this program needs some retooling.

This report was was covered extensively by FCW and many other federal IT media outlets, in addition to the Washington Post. 18F has been a bit of a punching bag, as they also got negative press for spending a weekend redesigning their logo, and of course the first IG report discussing their finances and their management failures.

What has always bothered me about 18F is how they seemingly have been able to operate outside the constraints that all other IT service providers are forced into. Further, why does following established enterprise architecture, cyber, QA, and IA standards seem like “needless bureaucracy“, which seems to be the pervasive attitude of many at 18F, according to internal sources? I understand that many of these developers and engineers have little to no government experience, but doesn’t management?

It just seems like you have to either have innovation or be trapped by rules and regulations. Can they not co-exist? It is akin to saying you cannot have both procurement innovation and the FAR? Steve Kelman’s piece on his FCW blog countered that argument, discussing share in savings.

Government management can be frustrating, messy, and sometimes redundant. However, it takes effective leadership to produce results. I have no doubt in the talents of 18F, but the IG reports are highlighting important shortcomings in the program that need to be addressed.

Is the IG report seemingly biased and possibly agenda driven? Maybe. Nonetheless, it does not make what they found not true either.

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