Earlier this week GSA announced a significant reorganization adding a third “service” by combining 18F with the Office of Citizen Services and Innovative Technologies (OCSIT) and the Presidential Innovation Fellows program to create the Technology Transformation Service (TTS).
Under the new structure it appears that TTS would be raised to the level of a “national service” within GSA organizational structure joining the Federal Acquisition Service (FAS) and the Public Buildings Service (PBS) as pillars of GSA and essentially elevating OCSIT from its current position as a division of the GSA Central Office.
The reorganization is being undertaken using authorities provided to the Administrator of GSA and does not appear to require Congressional approval at this point. We expect Congress will engage in oversight related to the proposal as it moves through the annual appropriations process.
In the blog announcing the service by GSA Administrator, Denise Turner Roth, GSA notes that it plans for the TTS to focus on “emerging technology.” FAS will retain its leading role in IT acquisition, especially where commodity IT products and services are concerned. The Office of Government Wide Policy will continue to drive policy across agencies.
Internally, GSA's IT organization and CIO will run IT operations and strategy. The CIO's office will serve as a "test bed for many emerging technologies," GSA stated. Rumor has it that some within GSA are concerned the new service would dilute the missions of other divisions within GSA, particularly those that deal directly with IT acquisition.
Phaedra Chrousos will shift from her role as associate administrator of OCSIT and 18F to become commissioner of the new service. 18F Executive Director Aaron Snow will be deputy commissioner.
The Technology Transformation Service aims to entrench 18F, which was created in March 2014, as a permanent fixture of the federal bureaucracy. 18F has been criticized by many for inefficiencies and “mission creep” beyond its stated role of providing narrow, project based support for federal agencies to fix smaller IT disasters.
There was much speculation whether the organization, along with the USDS, would survive the in upcoming Presidential Transition and while this move does not answer the question once and for all, it clearly indicates a desire by GSA to continue 18F beyond the current Administration.
FedRAMP which currently sits within the OCSIT structure appears to be somewhat unaffected by the reorganization other than moving with OCSIT into the new TTS. How and the extent to which this move impacts the troubled FedRAMP program remains to be determined.
TTS will not have jurisdiction over the Multiple Award Schedules, including GSA Schedule 70, as well as GSA-managed GWACS for IT that already exist. TTS’s role in IT acquisitions remains murky.
In terms of the proposed Administration IT Modernization Fund, there is some concern that the Obama Administration would like the new service to “take ownership” of any funding provided for ITMF in the event that it gets through the Congressional Appropriations process. This is evidenced by the GSA Administrator’s comment that the “Technology Transformation Service builds a great foundation for the federal government’s modernization efforts.”
At this time, there is not broad industry support for GSA to manage this new, proposed IT Modernization Fund, currently proposed at $3 billion and GSA’s role in managing the ITMF will likely be a significant part of the discussion going forward.
These developments will continue to play out in the coming months, and we are planning to meet with GSA to obtain deeper insight into the operation of the proposed Technology Transformation Service and will provide more information as it is made available.