GSA’s 18F: “Hacking Bureaucracy”

Published: May 21, 2014


In an environment that resembles more of a technology start-up than a government office, sixteen of industry and public sector’s brightest gather daily to develop software for their government clients.

Dubbed 18F, because of their location in GSA’s headquarters on 18th and F streets, these innovators and entrepreneurs attempt to improve the way agencies accomplish their missions.  18F was established in April of this year by GSA to accelerate innovation across the federal government, and includes the Presidential Innovation Fellows program and GSA’s digital delivery team.


According to Dan Tanherlini, GSA Administrator, “The mission of 18F is to make the government’s digital services simple, effective, and easier to use for the American people.  This service delivery program will make GSA the home of the government’s digital incubator.  By using lessons from our nation’s top technology startups, these public service innovators will be able to provide cutting-edge support for our federal partners that reduce cost and improve service.”


Greg Godbout and Noah Kunin, members of 18F, described their jobs in a recent blog as “hacking bureaucracy.”  Unlike criminal hackers, the 18F team’s work is “productively disruptive and curious.”   According to Godbout and Kunin, the term “hacker” in the software development community is not a malicious description, but one of a problem solver.  18F is attempting to integrate their agile style of software development into the broader federal community to drive long-term culture change.


18F held an inaugural Demo Day on May 9th, to introduce their mission and services to other federal agencies and the general public. 


The opening presentation by Greg Godbout on Hacking Bureaucracy described 18F’s purpose as to

  • Find innovators inside government 
  • Engage stakeholders and users 
  • Launch MVP to get started quickly 
  • Learn and Iterate 
  • Stay aligned with the rules of the bureaucracy 
  • Formalize the process/solution for reuse

During the Demo Day, various members of the 18F team presented projects they had worked on or were currently developing, such as,, innovation toolkit using Midas, and


Tangherlini stated in an interview with the Washington Post in April that GSA was still determining how to measure success of 18F.  He said one measure would be whether or not agencies are using the products that 18F builds.  He went on to say,”…if agencies don’t want to buy it…then we’ll pull the plug and try something different.” 


More information on 18F can be found at or GSA’s news release regarding 18F.