*I'm an 18F employee.
"Instead of securing enough cost reimbursements from its federal clients, 18F is losing millions."
Congress designed the revolving fund with the purpose of spending any funds in excess of costs to help the rest of government be more efficient and effective, as those funds don't naturally return to the US Treasury as they would in other parts of government.
In terms of 18F's performance in both regards, the capital start up funding we've received from the fund has been extremely well spent IMHO, but of course I'm totally biased. I'd look at what we've produced with that $ and let the work speak for itself, especially given how much govt would normally spend on this much information technology: https://github.com/18f
That also only captures things which have an impact in software - we're still working on the best way to represent the fiscal or performance impact of our consulting work.
All that said, of course we can always be more efficient ourselves, and I think the next few years of fiscal reports will show that.
For our initial prototype, we originally forked your docs repo and heavily modified it which got us up and running quicker than if we had started from scratch!
That said, we ended up switching to another setup later on but still, it would've been painful without your open sourced works!
EDIT: Not that that's good; its just the environment we're working in now. Hide your staff, hide your code.
Even if 18F is paid out if other agencies budgets, Congress could as easily prohibit those agencies (or GSA itself) from spending any money on 18F. Heck, Congress could directly restructure, break up, or abolish the GSA.
Or, they could exercise the recently-revived Holman Rule and simply cut the pay of every individual (or select individuals) working in 18F to $1/annum.
If you work for the Federal government other than in an office with special Constitutional protection, no matter what the notional funding structure of your particular unit, your job, pay, and benefits are not protected against Congressional action, and you should not be misled to think that they are.
Line offices are at the pointy end of the stick where you actually deal with citizens. In my particular case we do a lot of permit issuance and resource management, but yeah think local branch office where you go when you want something.
I think you should also have a leg of funding direct from Congress to create "universal" applications across the fed. Does NASA need a separate timecard program from the DoD from the NPS? Does OPM need a different training system than the GAO? I would argue that in 99% of the cases, no. I think 18F and the USDS are uniquely setup to standardize and reduce a lot of waste across the fed, but as long as agencies are paying for individual projects I don't see any standardization happening.
But yes, agencies have some discretion in how they spend their budgets. Agencies are often mandated to operate a service, but are able to spend money by hiring 18F or private vendors to improve how they deliver that service.
This is not a dig at the R's, but all of you have to realize the R's do not care about functioning gov't or reducing spending, they just want to pass tax cuts, cut regulations and direct social spending to certain industries. You must realize that 18F's existence is diametrically opposed to that and despite the Medium post, your existence is in danger.
I realize you probably can't comment on this, but there is no way I can imagine all of you don't realize it. A man can only take so much fluffy talk when the truth is right in front of his eyes.
PS When I say all of you, I am directing it at 18F employees.
EDIT: And yes, in light of that, if you are staying put, you are indeed brave and your devotion to your cause is noble.
Echoing comments above, the laws/regs are strong, the problem continues to be implementation. Govt fiscal IT systems are some of our worst / most tricky legacy systems to modernize.