Story 2015-11-28 VZGD Understanding the US government's dismal IT project track record

Understanding the US government's dismal IT project track record

by
in legal on (#VZGD)
A lot of times the systems are politically mandated in the sense that you have somebody on the Hill or Congress who will mandate a system and they'll mandate a particular period of time and they'll mandate the amount of money to spend and they have absolutely no idea what they're talking about. So what happens is, if you're there as a government person, you’re trying to translate some political wish into something that's topical and it’s not very easy,” Bob Charette says. Another problem is that there isn’t much accountability when it comes to projects that fail.

One infamous example of government failure is the system that handles disability claims for Social Security. In the early 2000s, Congress spent money to try and reduce the massive backlog in claim processing that had built up. The backlog, however, only grew. Then in 2007, they spent more money — an estimated $381 million — to try and integrate 54 different IT systems that the Social Security Administration uses to process claims in the state. In 2011 they spent another $200 million on the project. “After six years ... they found out that they really didn't have anything.” The backlog for Social Security claims continues to grow, and the latest attempt to fix the problem failed again this past summer. “By any stretch of imagination, it's scandalous.”
Reply 3 comments

Contracts? (Score: 1)

by lmariachi@pipedot.org on 2015-11-28 02:32 (#VZP4)

In its zeal to push the “see, government is inherently incompetent and inefficient” narrative, TFA completely neglects to mention the role of private contractors in all that. Who’s landing these plums, and why aren’t the contracts written with milestone payments, performance mandates, and clawback provisions for if/when the contractor fails to deliver? And we know integrating cruſty legacy systems is no cakewalk, but there’s zero analysis or technical detail of the cause of these failures. How do you spend upwards of half a billion dollars and have nothing to show for it? Who’s rolling around in that money now, and why aren’t they behind bars, or at least being sued?

Re: Contracts? (Score: 0)

by Anonymous Coward on 2015-11-28 03:24 (#VZRP)

Ahahahaha. Big outsourcers like Accidenture will not touch a contract that holds them to account. They like to claim that in IT nothing is certain so while they can sign a 200 million dollar contract they don't agree to deliver. It has been happening for decades.

Re: Contracts? (Score: 1)

by evilviper@pipedot.org on 2015-11-28 15:29 (#W10C)

In its zeal to push the “see, government is inherently incompetent and inefficient” narrative, TFA completely neglects to mention the role of private contractors in all that.
TFA really isn't heavy-handed at all. They list some successes as well. But really, it's no secret that a huge number of high-profile government IT projects have failed, spectacularly, so no "zeal" nor "push" is needed to make the point. They list a few reasons for the failures. And whatever may be going on with the contracts, it doesn't change the simple fact of a history of big and expensive failures, and the terrible side-effects that harm everyone.