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Do the agencies themselves realize the subtle benefits of UI/UX changes to websites, TLS, etc? I don't know exactly what all 18F does but it seems like those are among the features I see changing (and appreciate).

Certainly. Lots of agencies have to process forms submitted by the public, and when people have trouble filling out forms it makes processing them much more difficult. We've been able to show that better UX leads to better quality information. Like with our work with U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services https://18f.gsa.gov/2015/09/08/reimagining-the-immigration-p...

Certainly line offices do, although in my experience HQ is in the process of transitioning away from the mindset that IT means MS Word installs and security management. I've been watching a transition from line office hosted CMS to an HQ hosted CMS and it has been informative how off the mark their assessment of what the agency actually does has been.

What is the distinction between a "line office" and HQ?

HQ is a building with highly paid bureaucrats sitting in Washington, DC or its suburbs. A line office would be say a branch of US Immigration and Customs that you deal with at your local airport.

I'm not going to lie; we're all bureaucrats with greater or lesser degrees of pay, although I think we top out at 160k, so by Silicon Valley standards, highly paid is debatable...

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.

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