In mid-2015, the Obama Administration began a big push to switch all government websites to HTTPS compliance. If the public was to visit a federal website, they needed to feel that their browsing was encrypted and information safe. The group responsible for implementing HTTPS? 18F.
Under the General Services Administration, 18F operates much like a tech startup for government. It plans successful projects, redesigns websites, builds custom software, pretty much meeting any tech need an agency has.
Since starting the HTTPS transition effort, 18F has made 61% of the 1000 government domains (which includes 26,000 subdomains) secure. While that missed the White House’s 100% compliance goal of December 31, 2016, 18F’s progress puts the government ahead of the private sector in its adoption of secure Web browsing.
Tracking the U.S. government's progress on moving to HTTPS – The 18F Blog
Wait, you might think. Isn’t this costing the taxpayers a gajillion dollars?
The good news is that 18F does not receive Congressional funds. Instead, it bills labor costs to the individual agencies for whom it is getting HTTPS compliant. It recoups costs through billable hours and services passed on to their clients. It is taxpayer money, but it’s producing actual value at market rates!
Even better news, however, is that the work 18F performs (while predominantly remote) is NOT outsourced. Per the agency’s Jobs page, the only people eligible to work at 18F are:
“Any individual who is not currently a GSA employee or contractor and who is a U.S. Citizen, a non-citizen national of the U.S., or has been admitted to the U.S. for permanent residence and holds a valid green card is eligible to apply. You can live anywhere in the United States.”
You read that right. Not an H-1B in the bunch.
Not only are they employing American IT workers, but they’re also paying them pretty darn well. Pay grades range from $73K - $133K, with a final salary cap of $160K. American IT workers earning good salaries. What a concept!
One of the benefits to hiring the right people is that government websites, once as unappealing as a long line at the DMV, are becoming user-friendly. In fact, 18F has contributed to an open UI Standard for all .gov sites. Typography, site headers/footers, navigation, buttons…all laid out & ready for federal & state agencies to follow.
The federal government is learning that secure AND user-friendly websites are more useful to the public, than clunky, hard-to-find-anything websites with too much information.
As the agency continues to operate and hire, 18F stands as a great example of why hiring the best in IT begins with hiring at home.
Is this a trend in the federal government? We’ll have to wait and see (but we sure hope so!).
18F Agency Website: https://18f.gsa.gov/