Major Federal IT failures–not where you think they are

The highly partisan House Energy and Commerce Committee has been investigating the issues with Healthcare.gov, a major government IT project and the public face of the Affordable Care Act. As they describe it in their own words: 

“the full committee will hear from HHS Secretary Kathleen Sebelius in an effort to understand what led to the botched rollout of the health law after the administration repeatedly told the committee everything was “on track.” The hearing – PPACA Implementation Failures: Answers from HHS – will seek answers to better understand the failures, who is responsible, and when or if the administration recognized the challenges that lay ahead.”

http://energycommerce.house.gov

This has been widely reported and right-wing pundits are having a field day. As this typical example from Fox News shows.

That sad thing, not widely reported, is that this  “failure” should not have been a surprise and is pretty much the norm. 94% of Federal IT projects larger that $10 million fail to arrive on time and within budget. In fact, many of these projects are never completed and are eventually abandoned. Why doesn’t HECC investigate these projects? There are a couple reasons. One is that there are just too many of them.  Another demonstrates the clearly partisan nature of the current investigation.

If the House really wanted to investigate bad software projects (instead of presiding over a politically motivated witch hunt) they would have to start with the military. The US military is  the world’s top consumer of expensive failed software projects.

http://www.pcworld.com/article/253038/watchdog_agency_report_shows_beleaguered_state_of_us_military_software_projects.html

There are higher priority projects to look into if Congress wants to get into the business of IT oversight, like this billion dollar failure for the Air Force:

http://www.itbusinessedge.com/blogs/governance-and-risk/lessons-from-a-billion-dollar-project-failure.html

Or this FBI project whose cost overruns alone are almost as 2/3 the entire cost of Heathcare.gov:

http://strategicppm.wordpress.com/2010/04/05/the-fbis-virtual-case-file-project-and-project-failure/

Before you suggest the common news media talking point–that the common thread is that these are all government projects–I need to point out that almost all of those projects were executed by private contractors rather than internal government IT departments.

The Department of Treasury and the Internal Revenue Service, on the other hand,  handle much of their own IT and they seem to be doing a very good job. In fact the IRS has one of the best IT programs anywhere, public or private. For a peek into some of their work take a look at example: http://www.irs.gov/pub/newsroom/mvs-10-07.pdf

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~ by severalfourmany on November 7, 2013.

One Response to “Major Federal IT failures–not where you think they are”

  1. It’s really disheartening isn’t it? Perhaps if some quarters would stop worrying about the size of government and instead focus on whether what the government does works, then we’d stop wasting so much money on private contractors and allow the government to hire directly. So frustrating how much is wasted.

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