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-- And the Government Representative Who Signed Off on Operational Readiness --

After the suicide mission in Washington D.C. ended Thursday night the “body media” along with all the blog sites began the expected harp about the failure of the Obamacare website.  It wasn’t until listening to the opening of the Friday edition of All In with Chris Hayes that I realized that our news media talks more about symptoms rather than root causes.  I realized how pathetic our news media has become as exemplified by Mr. Hayes failure to recognize that he has one of the most valuable and salient stories relative to the upcoming “budget negotiations and shut down 2013 part 2”.  The story is the failure of government contractors to deliver quality products on time and within budget.

Chris Hayes along with the other talking heads have the perfect opportunity to expose the gross failures of government contractors that continue to cost the taxpayer billions due to cost overruns and failures to meet schedule and technical requirements.  These failures and the cost overruns associated with them will go UNNOTICED in the upcoming budget negotiations as long as Hayes and the rest of media do not shed light on them.  Instead Hayes rambled on about all of the symptoms of the Obamacare website.

Never once in his rant did he mention anything about the government contractor responsible for designing, developing, and deploying the website.  Never once did we hear anything about why the government contractor felt that the website was in an operational readiness state on October 1, 2013.  And who in the government was responsible for signing off on its turnover and operational readiness?   I’m only pointing out Chris Hayes because in his rant he made the point that we shouldn’t go easy on the Obamacare website because we want it to be successful.  Well we shouldn’t go easy on “journalists” responsible for bringing us valuable and useful information because we want them to be successful too.

A culture has developed in the world of government contracting around the concept of the “lowest bidder”.  Even worse the lowest bidder concept has taken on a new meaning of “Lowest price - technically acceptable”.  This means that all proposals are scored on ability to meet technical requirements after which, the proposal with the best price (lowest bid) wins.  Well government contractors are taking drastic efforts to win contracts.  It is more formally referred to as the “Price To Win” (PTW) Strategy.  It is this strategy that is employed to determine the winning price for a bid and in some cases prices that are unrealistic in which to get the work done.  Getting the job done is not the goal of the proposal process, winning the work is.  Just win baby!

This is coupled with the disturbing practice in the world of government contracting of “renegotiating contracts” after they are awarded based on “unforeseen costs and technical issues”.  In many cases the government is driven to renegotiate a contract because of the importance of the work that needs to be performed.  A living example of this occurred during the recent budget battle to save us from committing mass suicide.  The budget bill passed by congress and signed by the president on Thursday includes a provision that increases the authorization for the Olmsted Lock in Kentucky from $775 million to nearly $3 billion. Did any of our esteem journalists who seem to worry more about selling their latest book than bringing us valuable information, research why we needed to provide more funding for this project, who the contractor is, and what are the real reasons why a 1988 project continues to be funded now with a completion date of 2024 for the entire project?  Are there schedule and technical issues that the taxpayer needs to know about?

Even more insidious is “Selling and Keeping Sold” government contracts.  This is the practice of winning a government contract and keeping it sold well beyond the original termination date by convincing the government to add additional functionality to the original requirements.  Government contractors as with other companies must meet Wall Street expectations.  Does this mean that desperate times call for desperate measures?  Who knows?

The world of government contracting is awash in contract overruns that are costing the taxpayer inordinate sums of money.  You would think that during this next round of budget negotiations that we will finally bring to light these activities rather than focusing on food stamps and Medicaid.  We need our media to help shine the light but I’m uncertain if they are up to the task or even capable as evident in the childish rants about the Obamacare website.  It is time for the media to start focusing on “Root Causes” and not Symptoms.

Or, are we dealing with a media based on “Lowest Price, Technically Acceptable”?

Originally posted to wildweezle on Sun Oct 20, 2013 at 10:51 AM PDT.

Also republished by Community Spotlight.

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Comment Preferences

  •  Tip Jar (176+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    MsGrin, Glen The Plumber, hopi13, Bluerall, Greenfinches, TheOpinionGuy, jimstaro, DRo, fcvaguy, midnight lurker, second gen, Dreidlgirl, RustyBrown, cvcobb01, jedennis, Ronald England, earicicle, aitchdee, UkieOli, maryabein, LarisaW, Do Something, BarackStarObama, jasan, Land of Enchantment, cactusgal, nancyjones, awcomeon, CA Nana, greenotron, greycat, dotdash2u, Rainefenix, claude, Brooke In Seattle, David PA, science nerd, ThirtyFiveUp, annecros, swansong50, Empower Ink, Chaddiwicker, fleisch, peacestpete, middleagedhousewife, Leftleaner, akmk, Jim P, Lujane, scyellowdogdem, wader, cocinero, Eyesbright, ColoTim, Habitat Vic, flowerfarmer, philipmerrill, aaraujo, digitalmuse, greengemini, Trendar, howabout, Turbonerd, fixxit, FoundingFatherDAR, randallt, maggiejean, SaintC, slowbutsure, pickandshovel, lcrp, GeorgeXVIII, murphy, OrganizedCrime, kevinpdx, Chi, eeff, mommyof3, RandomNonviolence, concernedamerican, 1BQ, JDWolverton, pcl07, Eddie L, Richard Cranium, ohmydem, Aliosman, CA ridebalanced, brook, Clive all hat no horse Rodeo, PsychoSavannah, Observerinvancouver, poliwrangler, Hayate Yagami, ScienceMom, chimene, Egalitare, socialistfolkstick, JeffW, tle, MarciaJ720, gfv6800, zozie, Buckeye54, zerelda, Naniboujou, Norm in Chicago, grollen, RBinDLH, Rosaura, atxcats, jamess, icemilkcoffee, Green Karma, YellerDog, tubacat, bleeding blue, mosesfreeman, dsb, eyeswideopen, Max Runk, Bluesee, myboo, chickeee, Creosote, Gareth, Nicci August, Alexa, radarlady, MKSinSA, rapala, MartyM, StrayCat, NonnyO, beverlywoods, jhop7, Don Quixote, Foundmyvoice, TexasLefty, Vatexia, Keeping It Real, Ed in Montana, Debbie in ME, BCO gal, cececville, gypsytoo, kurious, mikejay611, marina, mungley, nicki37, sethtriggs, rlb, Black Max, DeminNewJ, Robynhood too, lissablack, MKinTN, Einsteinia, pdard, wildweasels, cotterperson, pashber, Fireshadow, artmartin, Old Sailor, wenchacha, prfb, LouisMartin, Little Flower, salmo, artebella, SteveLCo, ridemybike, mystique mist, VTelder
  •  YES!!!!!!!!! (102+ / 0-)

    I've been waiting for Rachel to cover this thoroughly.

    Our government is ALREADY privatized out the wazooooo.  I keep hearing Repugs say the private sector could have done it right.  But the private sector did it WRONG, you idiots!

    "This is the best bad idea we have by far..." ~Argo

    by MsGrin on Sun Oct 20, 2013 at 10:58:30 AM PDT

    •  Think (31+ / 0-)

      The private merc army built quickly and with federal funds as it went to the investors and caused nothing but Huge problems in getting our own military personal killed and maimed while it helped greatly in the spread of the al Qaeda type ideology, that and the speak within this country especially in full support of the mercs!!

      "If military action is worth our troops' blood, it should be worth our treasure, too; not just in the abstract, but in the form of a specific ante by every American." -Andrew Rosenthal 10 Feb. 2013

      by jimstaro on Sun Oct 20, 2013 at 12:02:22 PM PDT

      [ Parent ]

    •  well Duh! (39+ / 0-)

      Real governments hire their own people to get things done, and give them steady jobs with benefits to encourage them to stay and perfect their work.  The system isnt designed to create profit; the system is designed to get a job done well on a sustainable basis.  The profit in the equation is the well-being of the American people, the Common Good.

      The utter fallacy of privatisation is the enduring legacy of Reaganomics and the Corporate Wing of the Democratic Party colluding with the Oligarch.  It is the bright and shining lie at the core of the rot in our government now.

      don't always believe what you think

      by claude on Sun Oct 20, 2013 at 03:07:26 PM PDT

      [ Parent ]

      •  There were at least two primary contractors (19+ / 0-)

        One for the web front end, one for the back end. I think there were subcontractors as well.

        I used to work for HHS so I know a bit about how they do this sort of stuff. They don't believe in "rolling their own" with federal employees. There are project managers (I used to be one) to work through projects like these but rarely do they come up from the trenches to know what the work actually entails.

        As for what contract was used, I am sure it is available somewhere. Contracting contributed to the failure, but the whole model for developing large, interactive web sites for the government is bad, depending on contracting models that fit poorly at best.

        The whole project was very risky and had a high probability of failure in any event, made worse by being deadline driven and assumptions being incorrect (more state exchanges would be in place). It should have been developed as a risk-adverse project and it wasn't.

        I run a site not that dissimilar to for the feds. Anyone curious can read my blog to see more thoughts in this area.

        Many an insightful opinion and observation can be found on my blog Occam's Razor. UID: 875

        by Guy Noir on Sun Oct 20, 2013 at 06:41:15 PM PDT

        [ Parent ]

      •  It was Obama who borked it. (5+ / 0-)


        Times today,, 2013-10-21:

        Nevertheless, disarray has distinguished the project. In the last 10 months alone, government documents show, officials modified hardware and software requirements for the exchange seven times. It went live on Oct. 1 before the government and contractors had fully tested the complete system. Delays by the government in issuing specifications for the system reduced the time available for testing.

        Exactly as I said, 2013-07-07:

        So, when a project gets out of control, you see managers triage requirements to get something, anything out the door, and remember: Obama's committed to the October 1 date ("We will implement it"), and so something, anything, will go out the door.

        They. Launched. The. Biggest.Government. IT. Project. In. American. History. Before. It. Was. All. Tested.

        And then they blame all the problems on too many users?

        Typically, Democratic blame-shifting and fingerpointing is more adroit than this, another indication of #FAIL; they can't even manage the spin properly.

        Top down tinkering doomed it.  Remember the "simplified application" dictated by WH?
        •  Actually, Biggest Bork (18+ / 0-)

          Was not going directly to single payer.  What a waste setting up such a convoluted "eligibility engine" to decide who gets health care!  Keeping the rentiers in the delivery food chain kept millions from getting care.  We should be saving 600 billion/year with single payer.  Instead we are pissing away the money to preserve the rents on delivery of health care.

          •  Possibly the saddest thing of all is that there (4+ / 0-)
            Recommended by:
            radarlady, splashoil, NonnyO, mkor7

            Was once a young and highly enthusiastic African American running for the Illinois senate seat who said, "Single Payer Universal HC is the best and most logical solution to the health care reform efforts. But what it will take to have it come about is Democratic majorities in both the House and the Senate, and a Democratic President in the Oval Office." This was said circa 2004.

            I think I voted for the guy in 2008, for some office or other, but I have no idea what ever became of him.

            Offer your heart some Joy every day of your life, and spread it along to others.

            by Truedelphi on Mon Oct 21, 2013 at 01:32:30 AM PDT

            [ Parent ]

            •  did you REALLY think that would happen? (3+ / 0-)
              Recommended by:
              mikejay611, wildweezle, artmartin

              already he is vilified for using the private health insurance system, how was he ever going to get this country all the way to European socialism?

              "The poor can never be made to suffer enough." Jimmy Breslin

              by merrywidow on Mon Oct 21, 2013 at 06:34:23 AM PDT

              [ Parent ]

              •  It's not about him. All about us. (1+ / 0-)
                Recommended by:

                I could care less about fluffing him or his rentier optimization efforts.  Single Payer works well and could serve all of us much better.  

                •  You cant force single payer on everyone (1+ / 0-)
                  Recommended by:

                  I am indifferent to single payer versus private insurance. Either way, I am beholden to a job or a government for my insurance which is a failure in itself of healthcare economics. But I cant blame Obama for failing to push Single Payer hard enough. There is a vast minority of the country who will not subscribe to it. You just cannot alienate such a big portion of the country with something that integral in their way of life just because you like it because you are forcing them to subscribe to your notion of something that is so intergral in their lives.

                  •  No Blowback to O'care? Joking? (0+ / 0-)

                    You cannot get much more invasive than O'care.  There will be a revolt due to the requirements of the "eligibility engine."
                    Contrast that to Medicare.  Two weeks before my 65th birthday my medicare card was in the mailbox.  This scheme is a complete disaster.  My fear is that O will try to bork Medicare to match his program!  Obama's New Program...

                    Consider ObamaCare. What is Obama’s essential architecture:

                    A market set up by the State (ObamaCare’s “marketplace”)
                    In which citizens must purchase a product (the mandate to purchase health insurance)
                    From private rent extracting[2] entities (the insurers).
                    And why? Why pick that architecture? Shorter: Because The Market. In longer form: Given the proven success of other models worldwide — whether centrist, like single payer, or left, like a national health service — the choice of this market-based solution can only have been ideological; indeed, the touching faith in The Market shared by the legacy parties and the political class in general is quasi-religious in nature, and the mandate is equivalent to conversion by the sword. (The good faith conservative critique of ObamaCare, abandoned for whatever reason in favor of frothing and stamping about “Jawbs!”, rate shocks, and The Collapse Of Civilization As We — and most definitely “we” — Knew It, was that people shouldn’t be forced to enter a market because liberty.) Note that there’s plenty of reason to think, even accepting the moral primacy of markets, to think that ObamaCare won’t be able to structure a particularly good market, if the welfare of the citizens/consumers forced into it is a concern. First, Choice, handmaiden of The Market, has been shown to create anxiety and depression; too many choices make people just as unhappy as too few. Second, there’s no real reason to think that ObamaCare’s market won’t be just as much of a lemon market as the market or private health insurance. Indeed, one might make the case that ObamaCare has nothing to do with health care at all: ObamaCare makes no pretense of being universal, or “bending the cost curve,” or improving health outcomes (although it may do so, its advocates are notably reluctant to make that claim[3]).

                    You claim this is less invasive than Medicare where all you need is your birth certificate and SS#?
              •  By going back in time and (1+ / 0-)
                Recommended by:

                Encouraging Joe Lieberman's parents to use birth control?

                "Don't be defeatist, dear. It's very middle class." - Violet Crawley

                by nightsweat on Mon Oct 21, 2013 at 10:10:14 AM PDT

                [ Parent ]

                •  How convenient is it that the (1+ / 0-)
                  Recommended by:

                  sux people omit this fact.  They forget about Al Franken not being seated right away, Ted Kennedy barely able to function, the blue dogs pushing back wanting their own concessions.  A push for single payer would have resulted in NADA, NOTHING, NO HEALTH CARE PROGRAM AT ALL.

                  Damned armchair quarterbacks.  Of course we want single payer.  I'll bet Obama still wants it badly too but he wasn't a flipping dictator and the Republicans, big pharma, and the insurance companies had immense power and resources.  

                  Some of us were actually around for the failed Clinton health care push and understand that going all in carries risks of complete failure.

        •  no one mentions (7+ / 0-)

          the fact that HHS never imagined GOP states NOT wanting to create JOBS in their own states by implementing their own Exchanges - and instead forced the federal government to do it for them.

          Apparently there was NO deadline for GOP states to convey their intentions - as one after the other abandoned their "states rights", forcing the federal government to create their Exchanges with LITTLE time and resources.

          "Tax cuts for the 1% create jobs." -- Republicans, HAHAHA - in China

          by MartyM on Mon Oct 21, 2013 at 03:44:42 AM PDT

          [ Parent ]

      •  Not exactly: I used to be in this racket ... (0+ / 0-)

        I even had a couple of dances with Sen Proxmire's office.  Never won a Golden Fleece ... but was "considered"  for it for it twice:  a "$1800 ladder which costs $89 in any hardware store" and for a "card extractor tool for the IBM card sorting machine" ...

        Anyway .... government procurement of manufactured goods  is now almost all  "private."

        In between the Civil War and the First WWII there were Arsenals which manufactured everything from bayonets to naval siege guns. But, during WW-II the private sector took over all but the Very Special Projects  (like the Manhattan one). This system was refined all during the Cold War.

        Basically the idea was :"Uncle" on the government side, lets contract to "qualified, responsive bidders" on the "industry side"  with the  goal of delivering goods  (and increasingly, services)  "to spec, on time, at the lowest price."

        An example of the system working well:  Grumman Aircraft bid, designed and built the Lunar Lander on a "Firm Fixed Price Contract" ...

        An example of the system working badly:  The FBI's computer system upgrade of the late '90s ...  And clearly, the mess that is the ACA Exchange/Marketplace  system(s).

        It appears that where computer INFORMATION  systems are concerned  "Uncle" is NOT so very good at specifying, overseeing in-progress , and final testing and acceptance.

        (On the other hand, the computer systems for navigation satellites, or aiming missile and field artillery seem to reach the field in pretty good working order .)

        Another useful point might be made:  there are built-in audits and statute-limited profit levels built into government contracts.  When the DCASR/DCASMA bureaucracy does it's job ...  well, Grumman was limited to 5% profit on that Lunar Lander project -- and that at a time when certificates of deposit were paying above 8%.   (Of course the system by which that profit is calculated  a lot more complicated than calculating simple interest on borrowed money.)

        Now ... I agree with you that "Uncle" is making far too much use of Contractors to do jobs ... from "policing the area" at military bases to collecting on IRS Liens of defaulted taxpayers.

        BUT  "Real Governments hire their own people?"

        So true in the 1860s.

        Remained true in the 1900s ...  for the fascist and communist States, at least

        Us?  Now?  "Not so much."

    •  Dont blame private sector. Govt is to blame (1+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:

      Who is responsible for overseeing the contracts? The government. Private sector will get away with whatever they can. And it is no different from a government employee. I know of software contractors who work for the state of GA who do the basic minimum they can get away with  while keeping their job.

      It is really tired how we tend to just blame private companies.  Obama fucked this up. Let's be honest. When he invested so much into this act, he should have delegated someone more competent to oversee this process. When you know the right wing is hungry for any kind of trouble, why the hell would you roll out so incompetently such a website? Why area there people not fired? Why isn't the government contractor penalized? What are the penalties invlved in such a contract? At the end of the day, it is a government official who needs to be fired for not managing this project.

      And this vendor needs to be blacklisted for a temporary period to punish them.

  •  Interesting point. (27+ / 0-)

    Do we not directly employ any web designers, software engineers, etc? Who designs, updates and maintains the Medicare, Social Security and IRS computer systems?

    I think that often when we contract out functions of government we pay more, yet privatization is always done in the guise of saving taxpayer dollars.

    One other side point - since private employers are basically not willing or not able to step up to the plate and create jobs at liveable wages, maybe the government SHOULD be a major employer. Who cares where the paychecks are coming from as long as they keep coming? part of the wages would cycle back in as taxes and would be spent in the economy as a whole, generating more tax dollars.

    No one is confronting the issue that massive unemployment may well be the new norm and that instead of Grover's bathtub, the OPPOSITE tack is what's needed to restore wealth and vitality to the working and middle classes.

    Funny how "growth" is the be-all and end-all for private industry but anathema for government

    “Human kindness has never weakened the stamina or softened the fiber of a free people. A nation does not have to be cruel to be tough.” FDR

    by Phoebe Loosinhouse on Sun Oct 20, 2013 at 11:16:54 AM PDT

    •  With a project this large, you need a company (39+ / 0-)

      that already has teams in place that have experience with creating complicated programs. It's not just the website, but also the back end.

      Whether CGI was the right company is a separate question.

      From everything I've read the problem lies with whoever wrote the specs (usually the client/government agency). Apparently they were not completed until April.

      That left little time to set up and properly test the process of signing up and getting the info to the insurance companies. They had only about a week or less to test this complex website and back end!

      That is a management problem. Don't know whose lap this falls in, but Sibelius seems to be sitting on this bomb. It is her Department. Her hair should have been on fire as the deadline approached.

      Also, if they knew that this was a total FAIL, why didn't they push the opening date further out? Or they could have rolled it out by state, or birthdates, etc.

      I know it would be an embarrassment, but would it be a bigger one than what Obama is experiencing now?

      Whoever made the decision that you had to set up a record with a password, etc. in order to see the actual plans and premiums,  should be hung out to dry.

      The only info the site should have requested was your state, county and age. Along with a prominent chart that shows the income levels that would qualify you for government assistance.

      Then you could window shop. Gather your info and then make your decision whether or not you want to actually apply.

      That's it!

      It’s the Supreme Court, stupid! Followed by: It's always the Supreme Court! Progressives will win only when we convince a majority that they, too, are Progressive.

      by auapplemac on Sun Oct 20, 2013 at 11:45:46 AM PDT

      [ Parent ]

      •  You do realize that many states didn't decide (18+ / 0-)

        if they were going to create their own exchanges, or let the government do it until then, right? There are still states who haven't decided if they're doing Medicaid expansion or not. It's not like the feds just decided they'd sit on the project and get the specs to them whenever they felt like it.

        Then you could window shop. Gather your info and then make your decision whether or not you want to actually apply.
        They have that.

        I'd like to start a new meme: "No means no" is a misnomer. It should be "Only 'Yes' means yes." Just because someone doesn't say "No" doesn't mean they've given consent. If she didn't say "Yes", there is no consent.

        by second gen on Sun Oct 20, 2013 at 12:20:35 PM PDT

        [ Parent ]

      •  Shakespeare asked,"To contract or not to contract? (12+ / 0-)

        That really is the overriding question. I would agree with most of the software engineers and developers that have posted here that most of the blame for this is with the government managers and overseers - terrible original design methodology, demanding changes way to late in the development, going forward with implementation when they were warned from within that a disaster was imminent, and various other reasons that have been quite well delineated by the other posters. The current whipping boy, CGI, apparently delivered the software for several of the successful state exchanges. I really don't think this is a rotten developer and I wholeheartedy agree that projects this large do need to be outsourced because of the complexity involved and the need to have technically experienced staff members ready at day one.

        I think it is shear folly to believe that the government should do everything in house and I think it is quite stupid to think that everything should be outsourced. There are things the government does quite well in developing and managing and there are things that it really has no business trying. The whole game is attempting to find that sweet spot or balance that works well for everyone.

        Many, many years ago the IRS tried to develop a software processing suite in house and it totally went up in flames. I was privy to the inside details because I was in a user group with many of their technical people because our lab had purchased the same computing platform they had chosen. It was just a mess. They weren't ready for that size of a project - either managerial-wise or technically. They finally called in an outside group and it did have a happy ending. Does this mean the government can't do anything in house? Absolutely not! But I think it goes to show that in many cases a private/public partnership on many of these projects is required and best for all of us.

        •  Big contracts without competent oversight leads (3+ / 0-)

          to bad outcomes and waste.

          Plenty of blame to go around.

          Needs to get fixed pronto.

        •  I think it all depends on who has these (6+ / 0-)

          capabilities - which take years and significant investment to develop.

          If the government had hired resources and spent years investing in the necessary skills, then I don't see any reason why they wouldn't be able to complete development projects like this themselves. There's nothing special about working at a privately run bureaucratic organization vs the government.

          Of course the rationale behind privatization is that in a world of unlimited competition, market forces will reduce costs and provide better outcomes. But the reality is that with many of these contracts there may be only one company or at best, handful of companies considered "qualified" to take on the project themselves. So you don't necessarily gain anything - you just end up spending more on contractors working within the confines of a private bureaucracy, which is now your only option because the expertise itself exists only outside the government.

          Apparently nothing will ever teach these people that the other 99 percent of the population exist. —George Orwell

          by ukit on Sun Oct 20, 2013 at 04:30:08 PM PDT

          [ Parent ]

        •  CGI American subsidiary CGI Federal was contractor (2+ / 0-)
          Recommended by:
          wildweezle, mzkryz

          I've seen a lot of complaints that "Obama hired a Canadian company!"
          The Daily Beast has an interesting article about CGI.

          CGI has been contracting with the feds for 36 years. Here's a PDF "CGI Federal at a Glance."

          It will be interesting to learn what went so wrong here with a company that has so much experience with the feds. Did they have a lot of new hires for this project who didn't have the experience or was their staff turnover so that consistency was impacted.?

          From doing consulting on projects like implementing SAP, I've seen consulting firms rotate new staff through projects as they see it as a training experience.

      •  You are 100% correct, auapplemac. (14+ / 0-)

        As a tiny govt. contractor, I can assure everybody that THE SPECS are the most critical element of any project, large, small or vast.

        The government Contracting Officer is responsible for obtaining the specs from the customer. However, the customer isn't always the end user, and the end user is often left out of the whole process.

        When we win a contract, we bring everybody together, - the CO, the customer, and actual people who will be using our system - to make damn sure there's a meeting of the minds on every aspect of the project.

        Our most successful projects have been those where the Contracting Officer/Project Manager/Team Leader were in daily contact, and NOBODY was so intimidated that when a problem was encountered it was buried only to pop out later like a full blown boil.  


        •  Good to see you, cactusgal. Miss you in the (0+ / 0-)

          "other" place.

          It’s the Supreme Court, stupid! Followed by: It's always the Supreme Court! Progressives will win only when we convince a majority that they, too, are Progressive.

          by auapplemac on Mon Oct 21, 2013 at 05:15:10 PM PDT

          [ Parent ]

      •  The contractor can change the specs (2+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:
        wildweezle, RandomNonviolence

        If this contractor couldn't meet the obligations required by the specs, they should have backed out of the contract or proposed changes to the specs so they could do the job.  This is done by military contractors as a routine.

        The contractor new the law, for more than 3 years!  The specs are almost spelled out in the law.  They could have prototyped the html the database interfaces, the databases, the back end processing, the web server configuration, interfaces with big insurance companies...  all before they even looked at the specs.

        This is a problem with the contractor and the procurement process. One should get fired, and the other should be totally reviewed and rebuilt.

        •  You can argue (2+ / 0-)
          Recommended by:
          OrganicChemist, wildweezle

          That CGI is at fault for accepting the specs when they did. Thats about it. This project is what is known as a death march from day 1 of development.

          They would not have been able to develop the software based on reading the law themselves.

          On the other hand, HHS could have given them specs in phases so that development on the easy parts could start earlier.

          This is a big screw up on the part of HHS.

      •  Agreed (2+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:
        wildweezle, auapplemac

        I'm also in the software industry. My reflex as this started was to assume standard V1 rollout hiccups. But the more I learned, the more I realized this was a colossal program management fuck up. Sebellius owns it and unless they can undo the damage in short order, I don't expect her to last. And we know what throwing more engineers at it now will accomplish in the short term. So there's a reckoning coming.

        If CGI got specs in March/April, there's no way this was going into production Oct 1. I'm sure everyone with a clue knew it all the way back in April.

        I realize the politics of it put the pressure on them to bring it live when it wasn't ready. But they should have anticipated that and got specs to them 9 months earlier.

        •  Sebelius is being given a free ride by Democrats (1+ / 0-)
          Recommended by:

          I am glad someone is pointing out how she refuses to accept full responsbility for his fiasco. I don't think she has to resign. But she has to spell out who messerd this up, who is going to get fired in the government for letting this crap happen sabotaging the ACA. Reduce the scope of the damn website if you have doubts you can meet the deadline.

          I am not aware of the particulars of the volume problems. But that too could have been avoided if they had a phased rollout where citizens with SSNs or Last Names in a certain range would only be allowed to apply in the ifrst month. And then slowly expand. Not saying this should be the solution. But they could have done something like this.

    •  No. (21+ / 0-)

      The government typically does not directly employ web designers, software engineers, etc.

      The vast majority of government employees are project managers and project assistants who oversee the private contractors doing the actual technical work of government.

      It is a system deliberately designed to enrich the private sector while making government look foolish and inefficient.

      If you don't watch the news, you're uninformed. If you watch Fox news, you're mis-informed. (paraphrasing Mark Twain)

      by edg on Sun Oct 20, 2013 at 11:51:32 AM PDT

      [ Parent ]

      •  Why not? (1+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:

        Because somebody told somebody not to do that?
        Hmm. Who?

        You don't have to ask "why?"-- do you ?

        I must be dreaming...

        by murphy on Sun Oct 20, 2013 at 04:53:12 PM PDT

        [ Parent ]

      •  BULLSHIT. (0+ / 0-)

        Do you even read what you write on your tired old private sector is evil rant? If the project managers are so incompetent, what makes you think government programmers would be any better than government PMs?

        I have not seen any better work ethic among government based programmers. The pace is much more relaxed too. There is no way a bunch of government hired programmers would have met this deadline either the way the project was managed.

    •  Public utilities (12+ / 0-)

      An awful lot of water systems have been privatized, as well as trash and sewer. It doesn't take long for the institutional memory of how to do it to fade away, with predictable troublesome consequences down the road.

      Mark Twain: It ain't what you don't know that gets you into trouble. It's what you know for sure that just ain't so.

      by Land of Enchantment on Sun Oct 20, 2013 at 03:01:10 PM PDT

      [ Parent ]

    •  I don't think we can pay them enough. (6+ / 0-)

      Most of our local IT folk seem like they are only trained to load software.

      But an interesting point.  When Shrub was in office they spent millions doing a study to prove that certain job designations would be performed cheaper in a private capacity.  In my agency, the only positions that proved to be cheaper were two administrative jobs in Texas.  (Out of hundreds tested.)  Geologists, technicians, engineers....we were all cheaper to keep than a private company.

      Not to brag, but I could have told them that for $50.

      However, since the results did not prove what the GOP wanted them to, I never saw anyone report on the study, or the results.

  •  from what I've heard from (13+ / 0-)

    professional IT programmers, the fault lies in the government not getting their specs to the programmers on time, for them to create the site, test it, and implement it properly.

    The programmers got these specs in April of this years.  That left them only six months.  Six months to create. test and implement.

    Should have had three times that long to do it.

    I'm not an atheist. How can you not believe in something that doesn't exist? That's way too convoluted for me. - A. Whitney Brown

    by AlyoshaKaramazov on Sun Oct 20, 2013 at 11:35:03 AM PDT

    •  even besides that: (22+ / 0-)

      from TPM comments section


      It took 9 years to get 7 million children enrolled in CHIP. The first year they enrolled only 660,000. And that was WITH cooperation from Republicans.

      It took 2 years to get 90% of seniors enrolled in Medicare Part D -- and they were ALREADY in Medicare and 100% reachable. Of course, Democrats and Republicans alike worked hard to get seniors enrolled in the program -- the expensive, unfunded half-a-billion dollar program.

      In both programs, almost a billion dollars was allocated for outreach activities and nobody was shutting down the government and refusing to implement either in Congress or in the states.
      Nobody was refusing to allocate funds for public service announcements, or threatening football leagues with political consequences for cooperating in education. Nobody was wasting 437 legislators' time for a solid year in voting to defund those programs.

      And journalists weren't doing a deep dive to find things to nitpick about the program, either. Back in those days, journos would just report a story and not look under every bridge for derogatory stories to tell.

      I'm not an atheist. How can you not believe in something that doesn't exist? That's way too convoluted for me. - A. Whitney Brown

      by AlyoshaKaramazov on Sun Oct 20, 2013 at 11:39:36 AM PDT

      [ Parent ]

      •  Then that's a failure of the administration (5+ / 0-)

        in planning to get 7 million enrolled in a few months.  

        After all, they had no reason to believe that the Republicans were going to help make this program successful.  None whatsoever.  If I recall correctly, the ACA received only one Republican vote out of the entire Senate or House -- Joseph Cao, who was only a caretaker for the seat in LA-02 (I remember this because I'm in New Orleans).  LA-02 is an overwhelmingly Democratic district, and Cao was elected only because Democrats were stupid enough to nominate "Dollar Bill" Jefferson AFTER he was indicted for the $90,000 found in his freezer.

        When Republicans were completely united in their opposition to this, it was not rational to assume that Republicans would help the rollout -- they always wanted the government to fumble this, to prove that they were right about government not being capable of handling this program.

        If these stats are true, then the blame lies with the administration for planning a rollout that history suggested simply would not be do-able.  

        •  Exactly (0+ / 0-)

          I am tired of our side acting just like the republicans in making excuses for an incompetent government. Unlike the Repubs, I do not say government has to be inefficient . But I do agree it IS inefficient and the administration in charge has a duty to make it efficient so you can build trust with the citizens that government cares about how they spdend their money. And that means firing incompetent lazy employees or putting in measures to bring out the best and reward efficient administrators. Then you make the tea party's job much tougher to recruit new people.

    •  In other words, the Republicans did it again (2+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      Eyesbright, wildweezle

      Because of their foot-dragging, everything wasn't decided until April.

      Women create the entire labor force.
      Sympathy is the strongest instinct in human nature. - Charles Darwin

      by splashy on Sun Oct 20, 2013 at 03:33:53 PM PDT

      [ Parent ]

      •  Not exactly. (2+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:
        wildweezle, RandomNonviolence

        There is data about how many uninsured people and small businesses might be driven to participate in exchanges.  It is ridiculous to think that they could not have extrapolated that information and been incorporating it into their planning process - including and not limited to making recommendations about how long the rollout should realistically take - someone could have said "a few weeks will not be enough" for "X" number of people to respond given the capabilities of the systems we have specified under the contract.

        Anyone involved in this project from any vantage point who did not thing that this was going to be "THE BIG YEAR" would have to be on drugs though.

    •  The last minute changes (2+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      wildweezle, Sparhawk

      seem to be the biggest culprit along with the Govt managers who didn't understand the problems that a last minute change to a complicated application could cause.

      As I mentioned previously on another post, the people that are in power in Govt like heads of agencies usually have a very low tech IQ when it comes to understanding what  they are actually asking. Apparently they didn't deliver the specifications until April.  That suggest that there was a series of mangers who either didn't know or were too scared to say "this is way too short of a time period".

      Couple that with last minute changes of substance and you have a disaster.  The only fault that I can see on the part of the contractor was not walking away from the job when they saw that the specs were going to be delivered late with an unchanged deadline.

      Large and small firms know well ahead of time how long it takes to roll a website out of this type of complexity. I  am willing to bet CGI warned management of an epic disaster if they didn't get the specs on time. There is no developer that I know that wouldn't do that. Their reputation is on the line and it only takes somebody like the diarist above who clearly has no idea what happened, to hurt a company that specializes in this.

       Experience tells me that client side older managers just laughed off the urgency. "It's a computer, they can make changes just like I can in Powerpoint  up till the very last second" . Trust me , anyone over the age of 50 (and some in there 40s) can be technophobes and have no desire to learn even the basics of what they are asking demanding. So some really dumb things come out.  That's what happens when powerful people meet with something they don't know. They try to overpower it.

       A website of this complexity needs at least , at the very least , a year to roll out. In some cases two years even with a large team.

      Client side management has to be totally engaged with the process . That is from the top down. If they aren't there to light the fires under their own dept heads, nothing will get done in a timely manner.

      When it was clear that management didn't even know the importance of having a clean roll-out and were shrugging off the complaints with "too many people slowed the site down".  Then there is no doubt that this was a client side management problem at the very highest level.

      “ Success has a great tendency to conceal and throw a veil over the evil of men. ” — Demosthenes

      by Dburn on Sun Oct 20, 2013 at 04:49:13 PM PDT

      [ Parent ]

      •  All good points except.... (2+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:
        wildweezle, StrayCat

        could you lay off the ageism about "anyone over the age of 50 (and some in there [sic] 40s" being liable to technophobia.

        They can also be just as likely to be hotshot programmers who've been there, done that. And not every 20 or 30 something knows much of anything about technology either.

        •  I'm 57 (0+ / 0-)

          I have seen it with my own eyes. The tech literacy in my age group is pathetic, particularly in those that have reached positions of power.  Since everything we do in business and govt absolutely relies on IT there is no excuse for this other than those in positions of power don't want to be seen without clothes.

          “ Success has a great tendency to conceal and throw a veil over the evil of men. ” — Demosthenes

          by Dburn on Mon Oct 21, 2013 at 08:54:09 AM PDT

          [ Parent ]

  •  The government is always responsible (12+ / 0-)

    It hired the contractors, supplied the specs to them, and paid for the work.

    The buck stops... where?

    (-5.50,-6.67): Left Libertarian
    Leadership doesn't mean taking a straw poll and then just throwing up your hands. -Jyrinx

    by Sparhawk on Sun Oct 20, 2013 at 11:42:42 AM PDT

    •  The Republicans took every opportunity (16+ / 0-)

      to sandbag the process. The original bill provided a budget based on the assumption that most states would set up their own exchanges and promote them themselves. After all, why would a Republican Governor or Legislature opt for Federal tyranny when they could impose their own? ^_^ So requiring HHS to do most of the exchanges, with specs provided as late as possible, made it impossible for the project to be done in the manner desired, with a single rollout date.

      Others have pointed to the massive failure of design involved, and the fact that this was done as a traditional government waterfall development project, instead of an agile project. In waterfall projects you design the whole system wrong, then code it all wrong, then test it all wrong, then go back and try to fix mistakes. In agile development, you design part of a system, give it a quick implementation on a small scale (so it does not have to be optimized for efficiency), take user feedback, and redesign until it is acceptable. Then you do the production coding, testing as you go. As each part of the system becomes acceptable on its own, you bolt it onto the rest, and test that while other modules are being put together.

      In the extreme case, as at eBay, modules are added to production systems every two weeks, without ever taking down major parts of the architecture. I was assigned to documenting this process as my last project when I was a contractor there. As it turned out, I didn't get to write the documents, but I did learn how the system worked.

      For example, it would also have been much better to open one Federal exchange early as a beta test, and then to scale the hardware and the various software interfaces for the rest of the system based on early usage.

      The biggest problem I had with has been fixed. Yesterday I got on and examined the 19 offerings for Indiana without having to log in and pretend to be applying. That and the publicizing of the outside software interface for querying the system mean that we should be getting much better reporting on what is available and analysis of how policies stack up.

      Ceterem censeo, gerrymandra delenda est

      by Mokurai on Sun Oct 20, 2013 at 01:42:40 PM PDT

      [ Parent ]

      •  Of course the Republicans were not going to (8+ / 0-)

        lift a finger to help.  

        What would be incompetent is if anyone in the administration had assumed they would cooperate in the implementation of a law that not a single one of them supported.  

        Saying "but the Republicans didn't help" is a completely inept response to the problems with the rollout.  Democrats passed this law over the objection of every Republican in Congress.  It would be ludicrous to imagine that Republicans would then assist in making the law a success.  

        If the administration did not plan to accomplish the rollout without any assistance whatsoever from Republicans, then the administration was woefully incompetent.  I can't imagine that the administration's plans counted on Republican cooperation.  The administration is not stupid -- they knew full well that Republicans would do nothing whatsoever to help make the rollout a success.  

      •  The government rarely does (5+ / 0-)

        incremental development. Pilot projects and proof of concept projects are scorned as well.

        The point is to spend all of the budget immediately.

        I had some frustrating experiences at the state government level. They would rather spend multi-millions rather than multi-thousands. I guess the reasoning is that the budgets change each year so they want to grab all the money at once.

      •  Stop the excuses (0+ / 0-)

        Of course, they are out to get the ACA. We know that. That is not an unknown factor in the planning process. They should have had a minimal marketable product and had test runs a year ago.

    •  We Agree In Total! (0+ / 0-)

      That is why we say, "The Government Representative who bought the system off for turnover to an operational readiness State".....

      But my hopes would be that we could use the problems with implementing the ACA website to shed more light on the numerous other Government Contracts out there that are over-running and costing the taxpayer billions.

    •  this is exactly why the govt (4+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      splashy, Jim P, atana, wildweezle

      should have its own people doing this work, programming and systems design, rather than leaving it to the business clowns whose primary job function seems to be to bullshit bureaucrats.

      After all, were talking about a system that needs to be designed from the ground up as lasting a lifetime, and as such needs techs and admins who will make it a life's work,  rather than just the next job.  Yes,  you damn well have to pay such people well.

      Given that the govt uses computers systems all over the place,  it is freaking insane that the govt doesn't have its own techs building an efficient system that can talk to other parts of the system.

      Of course,  we would have to trust our government to give it that much efficiency.

      don't always believe what you think

      by claude on Sun Oct 20, 2013 at 03:20:47 PM PDT

      [ Parent ]

      •  That is the worst post I've seen on this (4+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:
        Sparhawk, FG, wildweezle, maracucho

        topic yet.   The govt has plenty of knowledgeable IT people who can work on smaller web projects. They didn't have anyone , nor could they have hired one at the salary they command that has experience in a roll-out this large.  

        In addition: the way the bureaucracy works in the govt, there would be little chance that a person who had qualifications needed would be given the power and authority to get many different departments to cooperate much less urge his /Her own management to get the show on the road at the bare minimum of April 2012. Not april 2013.

        “ Success has a great tendency to conceal and throw a veil over the evil of men. ” — Demosthenes

        by Dburn on Sun Oct 20, 2013 at 04:58:57 PM PDT

        [ Parent ]

      •  It's not that simple (1+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:

        I work in municipal government as a programmer analyst.  I occasionally have to write small data transfer scripts or custom interfaces to the enterprise application.

        I love programming.  My coworkers don't.  They'll manage the enterprise application, but they won't try to improve their skillset.  There's various projects that I've been on where I basically have to pretend that I'm working on a team and empower my colleagues, but they're not doing any coding.  And they don't have the skillset to set up a web server and code the javascript application logic for the web server, such as required for the Affordable Care Act website.  I know there's some colleagues that I could work with comfortably for software projects, but there's more that are dead weight.

        And I like DBurn said, the talented programmers don't have the authority to get even DBAs or the network infrastructure guys to cooperate.

        Here's an example:  I warned a coworker not to use direct SQL to communicate to a database.  SQL strings would create more bugs than using an ORM like Fluent NHibernate when communicating with the database.  A script that should have  taken a day if he had used Fluent NHibernate took a week as he ended up hunting for query related bugs using direct SQL.

      •  If you cant trust govenrment overseers, how do (1+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:

        you trust government programmers? It's all about project management. I work for a vendor that provides applications to the VA. GUESS WHAT> I care more about my product's speed than some of the VA's own employees who seem content with what I deem to be an unacceptably slow product(I inherited it).

        And then when we attend those VA teleconferences, half the time is spent doing a slooooow rollcall, a lot of small talk in a mind numblingly boring hour which accomplishes no more than a well conducted 10 min meeting.

    •  The people who do the work. (1+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:

      If the customer wants the impossible, it's the worker's job to say, 'hey, look, I'll try, but it really ain't possible. I mean it.'

      Not 'well they gave us shit so let's fake it until it's too late.'

      Who, if not the people doing the work, would know what can be done, and by when, and at what cost?

      Actual Democrats: the surest, quickest, route to More Democrats. And actually addressing our various emergencies.

      by Jim P on Sun Oct 20, 2013 at 04:17:09 PM PDT

      [ Parent ]

      •  Re (2+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:
        coffeetalk, wildweezle

        That's the job of a project manager.

        You have to have an independent idea of what your supplier is likely capable of if you are going to be successful.

        Unscrupulous contractors can lie about the cost in order to get the business. But internal groups will lie as well to match up with existing organization propaganda.

        As a project manager, you are accountable for the project getting done. You don't get to just throw up your hands and blame the contractor. In the private sector, that's a good recipe for getting fired. Regardless of your contractor's screw ups, your customer is still waiting for their product.

        President Obama is the largest project manager in the country. That's his job, far more so than trying to get legislation passed. It is his sworn duty to complete projects he is ordered to complete by Congress. In 2010, Congress ordered him to get these exchanges up and running. That's it.

        (-5.50,-6.67): Left Libertarian
        Leadership doesn't mean taking a straw poll and then just throwing up your hands. -Jyrinx

        by Sparhawk on Sun Oct 20, 2013 at 05:36:23 PM PDT

        [ Parent ]

        •  Nope. I'm a worker. If my boss wants (1+ / 0-)
          Recommended by:

          the impossible -- and not 'impossible' because I won't go through walls to get it done -- then my job is to tell the manager. They got no other way to know.

          If the manager won't listen, then, it's their fault.

          The rest of everything you say, I pretty much agree with.

          I know.

          Maybe I should just say 'nah-nah' at you, so as to dampen down my shock.

          Actual Democrats: the surest, quickest, route to More Democrats. And actually addressing our various emergencies.

          by Jim P on Sun Oct 20, 2013 at 07:43:21 PM PDT

          [ Parent ]

          •  Re (1+ / 0-)
            Recommended by:
            They got no other way to know.
            The way you get to be a highly paid and sought after manager is precisely to know these things.

            (-5.50,-6.67): Left Libertarian
            Leadership doesn't mean taking a straw poll and then just throwing up your hands. -Jyrinx

            by Sparhawk on Sun Oct 20, 2013 at 09:15:22 PM PDT

            [ Parent ]

            •  I've worked for corporations for years. (1+ / 0-)
              Recommended by:

              Anyone who actually works knows managers barely understand anything about the actual making of real things.

              They are good at keeping the rabble down, and looking good amongst their kind. (Read the history of early management theory: the 1st part is specifically why they were created.)

              It's the very nature of hierarchical structure that on-the-ground reality gets distorted (through inattention, fear, and vanity) every step up the pyramid.

              You are right about managerial responsibility as far as the Conventional Wisdom picture goes. On the other hand, look about us and everywhere, nearly everything is mismanaged. Because the literal makers of actual things are generally excluded from offering counsel from beginning to end.

              Strictly speaking, our managerial classes are incapable of having responsibility, for they are innocent of understanding.

              Actual Democrats: the surest, quickest, route to More Democrats. And actually addressing our various emergencies.

              by Jim P on Sun Oct 20, 2013 at 10:34:57 PM PDT

              [ Parent ]

              •  Same problems exist private , public (1+ / 0-)
                Recommended by:

                The difference is the government is spending OUR money. The project manager needs to be more conscientious and consider themselves civil  SOLDIERS in the fight for a better life for our fellow citizens. Otherwise, go work for a private company. Unfortunately, that does not happen. But that spirit is achievable if you hire the right managers. Unfortunately seniority prevails.

    •  The BUCK stops with the people who pocketed it (1+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:

      In other words, the profiteers who took the money and failed to deliver the goods.  In a just world, this contractor would be banned from ever receiving one more dime of government money until they fix very last detail free of charge and pronto.

      •  And government is responsible for making that (1+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:

        happen. The fact that the contractor is not sweating it out tells me the government dropped the ball in its duty in holding them accountable either via proper contractual lanaguage or some Project manager dropping the ball in doling out requirements in a timely fashion,

  •  I read on the internet that it was a no-bid (3+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    wildweezle, akmk, Shockwave

    contract. And I believe everything I read on the internet:

  •  Your point is well taken. (4+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    claude, wildweezle, akmk, Richard Cranium

    However, "government contractor" is a misleading designation. It suggests that the contractors are from or of the government when, in fact, they are private corporations reaping the benefits of "privatization." In a sense, this verbiage is consistent with the almost universal pattern of referring to persons and events in term of the intent, rather than the agent or act.
    In this case, the subject of concern is an information technology company which contracted (agreed) to perform a particular service by a date certain and, apparently ran out of time, perhaps because they did not employ sufficient personnel.
    It used to be a common business attitude that "buyers" were to "beware" consistent with the economic assumption that the participants in a transaction in the market were equally informed and equally responsible for the results. This, of course, serves to let the merchant off the hook for selling trash. There has been some improvement lately as a result of "consumer rights" which insist that producers and purveyors are responsible for what they bring to market. Our public corporations, perhaps as a consequence of a persistent campaign of denigration, are not accorded the same courtesy. Indeed, the damaged reputation of our public corporations may encourage shoddy treatment by the purveyors of goods and services. Another example of the prejudicial effect of low expectations?

    For some reason, journalism prefers to focus on effects, rather than causes. Perhaps that is because effects are easier to see. Finding miscreants requires work.

    Ultimately, however, it is Congress, the public body which manages our currency, which is to blame for lowest cost choices. For decades now, ever since the dollar was loosed from the bands of gold, Congress has indulged the pretense that it has no control over the public purse, even as it insists that the dollars flow so as to enhance the tenure of incumbents. And, to avoid the appearance of favoritism or attempts to curry electoral support, the Congress critters have developed the clever strategy of direction by exception. That is, in the process of developing projects and programs, they insert legislative directives which serve to rule out all interested or competent purveyors, except one. Just so, all earmarks were ruled out of the Continuing Resolution to appropriate funds, EXCEPT McConnell's dam.
    Incumbency depends on the extortion of votes with the bribe of public works, unless the pol can get away with threats.

    •  The govt has to contract specialized projects (5+ / 0-)

      I'm on board with the criticism of over-privatization, but governments have always contracted out major specialized projects like this one.    I'm sure there is no capability among the regular civil service employees in HHS to design and implement a software project of this magnitude.    By there same token, there is no government construction company.  When the government wants to build a building, it contracts with a private construction firm to do so.  

      Good examples, btw, of how government spending is a boon to the private economy, and how cuts hurt the private sector.  

      •  Why shouldn't there be such a capability (1+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:

        Not only should the government retain such capability, if there is excess capacity, the government should turn around and sell its services to the private sector. We have been brainwashed to believe that only private parties should have a role in commerce. There is absolutely nothing wrong with government run businesses. If there is money to be made, I'd much rather it be made by the government/ american people and not a billionaire privateer like the guy who ran CGI Federal:

    •  Government Contractor. (3+ / 0-)

      A government contractor is a private company that produces goods or services under contract for the government.

  •  Excellent Diary (3+ / 0-)

    You definitely know what you are talking about with respect to LPTA and the negative effects its had on Government as well as employees.

  •  Once upon a time (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:

    I  worked for FDA. We in the field were handed a brand spankin' new program to streamline our operation. It worked essentially as well as the ACA program now being run out. Looks like lowest bidder is still the order of the day.

    Common Sense is not Common

    by RustyBrown on Sun Oct 20, 2013 at 01:00:11 PM PDT

  •  That's lowest bid, politically acceptable (5+ / 0-)

    which is not in any way lowest cost, due to the problems noted in the Diary.

    It's like buying a Yugo (so-called, we used to say, because it doesn't) because it had the lowest sticker price, without considering comfort, reliability, cost of maintenance, cost of repairs, and the company going out of business because of Civil War in the former Yugoslavia.

    The problem is in the Dog Whistles. Republicans who rant and rave about Government Spending, or about Waste, Fraud, and Abuse, actually mean no such things. Spending on the military, spending directed to their favorite corporate sponsors, and subsidies to those companies (but not, for example, renewable energy or electric car companies) are just fine.

    The only things they are complaining about are actually investments in the economy that would help people they don't like, particularly infrastructure, education, health care, and anti-poverty programs. This is precisely and exactly the Southern Strategy of Richard Nixon, with its Northern extension by Ronald Reagan. Republican Strategist Lee Atwater said it best.

       Atwater: As to the whole Southern strategy that Harry S. Dent, Sr. and others put together in 1968, opposition to the Voting Rights Act would have been a central part of keeping the South. Now [the new Southern Strategy of Ronald Reagan] doesn't have to do that. All you have to do to keep the South is for Reagan to run in place on the issues he's campaigned on since 1964 and that's fiscal conservatism, balancing the budget, cut taxes, you know, the whole cluster.

        Questioner: But the fact is, isn't it, that Reagan does get to the Wallace voter and to the racist side of the Wallace voter by doing away with legal services, by cutting down on food stamps?

        Atwater: You start out in 1954 by saying, "N*****, n*****, n*****." By 1968 you can't say "n*****" — that hurts you. Backfires. So you say stuff like forced busing, states' rights and all that stuff. You're getting so abstract now [that] you're talking about cutting taxes, and all these things you're talking about are totally economic things and a byproduct of them is [that] blacks get hurt worse than whites. And subconsciously maybe that is part of it. I'm not saying that. But I'm saying that if it is getting that abstract, and that coded, that we are doing away with the racial problem one way or the other. You follow me — because obviously sitting around saying, "We want to cut this," is much more abstract than even the busing thing, and a hell of a lot more abstract than "N*****, n*****."

    Ceterem censeo, gerrymandra delenda est

    by Mokurai on Sun Oct 20, 2013 at 01:16:10 PM PDT

  •  Disagree! Please see this well informed diary (9+ / 0-)


    The short of it: After a politically forced short time for development,
    we are lucky that it works at all.

    Most people have no idea of the complexity of new large software projects. Most people do not know that it is common for large software projects to fail. Industry or government - it makes no difference.  

    Note (other diary & comments) that people who know what's what in the software business do not refer to the possible reasons for problems that you mention. For instance, too much money was allocated, not the opposite.
    Please consider the thought that you may have picked an idea that is a pet peeve of yours and assigned it to this situation without a specific basis.

    •  Pet Peeve? (0+ / 0-)

      Yes exactly.  Taxpayers overpaying for goods and services is a pet peeve of mine and should be for any taxpayer.  The SIMPLE premise of this diary is to take what is happening with the implementation of the ACA IT Enterprise Infrastructure and research, with the help of our news media whether this is a systemic problem throughout our Federal Government Contracting System.  According to the GAO, the 98 Major Defense Acquisition Programs collectively ran $402 billion over budget and were an average of 22 months behind schedule since their first full estimate.  It is high time we address this issue and there is no better platform than the upcoming budget negotiations.

      Yes as a taxpayer this is a pet peeve for me.

      Please consider the possibility that you may not understand the concept being posited in this diary.

  •  This seems transparently silly to me (6+ / 0-)

    I'll give you an analogy.  I'm a lawyer, a partner in a law firm.  I have younger lawyers (associates), paralegals, secretaries working for me on specific matters.  If we commit malpractice in a matter, it's my responsibility.  It is not legitimate for me to say, "Don't look at me, my paralegal screwed up."  If someone I hired, and someone that I am responsible for supervising, screws up, it's my fault.  That's why I am in a position of responsibility.  You can't take a position of responsibility, where you are responsible for hiring someone to do something, and you are responsible for overseeing what they are doing to make sure they are on track and doing it correctly, and then, when it's done poorly, simply say, "Don't blame me, they screwed up."

    It may well be that the contractor screwed up -- we just don't know enough to know what went -- and is still going -- wrong.  What we DO know is that the federal government was responsible - and the ultimate responsibility is with Secretary Sebelius.  She has to account to the administration - and to us -- for the problems in the rollout.  

    •  It may well be tha the contractor did a very good (3+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      sviscusi, Eyesbright, wildweezle

      job under the circumstances. See

      •  I don't think we know. But the point is that (5+ / 0-)

        it is ALWAYS the responsibility of the person in charge when a hugely important project like this does not go well.  See President Harry Truman.

        If someone in a position of responsibility says "it's not my fault -- someone I hired, someone I was in charge of, someone under my supervision screwed up" -- that person does not belong in a position of responsibility.  

        •  The person in charge is the project manager. nt (4+ / 0-)
          •  That's ridiculous. (5+ / 0-)

            Who does the Project Manager answer to?  Unless you tell me "no one," there's someone higher who also must share in responsibility.  Every organizational structure has a person at the top, who doesn't answer to others, and that person bears ultimate responsibility to make sure that those who report to him/her are doing their jobs properly.  That is the whole point of such a structure.  

            Perhaps you could stop at the project manager if this were a small, relatively unimportant project.  But this is the signature achievement of the administration's entire first term.  If the Secretary was not at least overseeing the project -- and making the project manager (or, more likely, whoever the project manager reported to) came in and report to her as to how things were going -- then she was not doing her job.  If she just said, "the project manager is responsible, I'm not going to play any role in making sure the rollout of the President's signature achievement is going well," then she was not doing her job.  

            I've been involved in with businesses in major projects.  Yes, there is a Project Manager.  No, that Project Manager is not the final responsibility.  He/she manages day-to-day operations.  But there is someone ultimately responsible -- the Project Manager has to go, periodically, to report to someone.  And that "someone" is supposed to ask the right questions and make sure he/she is getting good information.

            Now, I'm not saying Secretary Sebelius should resign.  What I am saying is that the ultimate person with responsibility -- in this case, Secretary Sebelius -- is ultimately responsible for things not going well, and it is incumbent upon her to tell HER boss -- the President and the people of this country -- how the screw-ups happened, what she is doing to fix things, and who she is firing over this (I agree with Robert Gibbs there).  

            Secretary Sebelius is where the "buck stops" (to quote Truman again).  She needs to take responsibility and report to her constituency about what went wrong and what's being done to remedy the situation.  

            •  Coffeetalk, overseeing by higherups who don't (5+ / 0-)

              know software development is a well know problem. Software development is one of the most technical projects, and least likely to be understood by higherups.

              Your choice of where the "buck stops" does not seem helpful to me, nor well related to software development. I take it we disagree on that. That's OK.

              I would add that a reason for the rollout on October 1 is that the system is clearly allowing many people to resister, and people need AHA, and without a very long period of testing behind the scenes (do you want that? OK we disagree again) this is actually the best way to find bugs and fix them.

              •  Re (2+ / 0-)
                Recommended by:
                wildweezle, VClib
                Software development is one of the most technical projects, and least likely to be understood by higherups.
                Then why are they "higher ups" at all?

                If Secretary Sebelius (or whoever) is incapable of understanding (or at least managing) the technical aspects, she should resign and be replaced by one of the millions of other people who can.

                The taxpayers and citizens of this country that the government has a sworn duty to serve deserve no less.

                (-5.50,-6.67): Left Libertarian
                Leadership doesn't mean taking a straw poll and then just throwing up your hands. -Jyrinx

                by Sparhawk on Sun Oct 20, 2013 at 06:33:38 PM PDT

                [ Parent ]

                •  Using that logic... (1+ / 0-)
                  Recommended by:

                  ...only someone who can understand absolutely everything should be president. In just about every single field of work out there, the higher up you go, the less specifics the person knows. People have been making jokes about it for centuries. Most people in top positions are there for their leadership capabilities, not their technical expertise.

                  Time is of no account with great thoughts, which are as fresh to-day as when they first passed through their authors' minds ages ago. - Samuel Smiles

                  by moviemeister76 on Sun Oct 20, 2013 at 11:08:15 PM PDT

                  [ Parent ]

                  •  "The buck stops here" (2+ / 0-)
                    Recommended by:
                    wildweezle, VClib

                    If your project gets screwed up, you as the leader have failed. You have a responsibility to understand everything you need to understand to get the job done. That's what "leadership" is, not smiling at your team and cheering them on with pom poms.

                    (-5.50,-6.67): Left Libertarian
                    Leadership doesn't mean taking a straw poll and then just throwing up your hands. -Jyrinx

                    by Sparhawk on Mon Oct 21, 2013 at 06:44:04 AM PDT

                    [ Parent ]

    •  Your employees =/= contractors (2+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      wildweezle, CoyoteMarti

      Your employees are under your direct supervision. Of course you are responsible. On the other hand, a contractor who took your money and fail to deliver the goods (if that is indeed what happened- we don't know for sure), is most absolutely at fault.

      If an IT firm took $100k from your law firm to build a LAN network for you, and the LAN network falls flat on its face- are you at fault?

      •  If you do nothing to monitor the phases of such (0+ / 0-)

        deployment, yes, you are at fault.

        I would like to know what kind of testing was done on such a project. Sebelius does not need to know a thing about programming to know how to monitor the progress of the project.

  •  Those who do not know anything about Contractors (4+ / 0-)

    think the problems are with the design of the system, aka ACA site, and not with contractors building the sites.

    Failure lays with the contractors, not the government requirements.

  •  Secretary Sebelius & contractors did well (3+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    Eyesbright, wildweezle, ruscle

    to get this project working in such a short time (about 120 days of  real work, due to the overall political process.) And it is working. It is not perfect; what software is?

  •  Yes and no (4+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    wildweezle, Cpqemp, Capt Crunch, Sparhawk

    Government is responsible for enforcing compliance on contractors, for setting standards. It isn't right to lay it at the feet of the contractors.

    In this case, having sacrificed much of the weekend to wade through the morass to sign up, I've got to say that the site is astonishingly poorly put together. Nowadays, most people are used to a dashboard-style box when online. We've got it here, FaceBook's got it, the Obama campaign website had it. It lets you know you're logged on, gives link to status, to messages, and so on.

    This thing is stupid enough to send an email that you have a message, without any clue as to what the message is about. You follow the link, and it doesn't take you to the message either, just to a page on the website that says you have a "notice," but no link offered to find the message. I eventually figured out where it was, but with almost no help from the site.

    There was a profound lack of supervision and interface on this thing. There's no excuse for such sloppy, inadequate work. It really won't do to lay it on the contractor. Though it's fair to say the whole business does, as you've discussed, demonstrate problems with the questionable practices of government contracting.

    Mark Twain: It ain't what you don't know that gets you into trouble. It's what you know for sure that just ain't so.

    by Land of Enchantment on Sun Oct 20, 2013 at 02:49:23 PM PDT

    •  Exactly what we are asking the news media to do (1+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      Land of Enchantment

      Shed light on the poor quality of the site and those in management positions that allowed this site to be deployed and launched when it was definitely not ready.  While at the same looking for other contracts where the taxpayer is being taken to the bank.

  •  Project managers (3+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    Cordyc, fleisch, wildweezle

    used to be held to bringing projects in on time and within budget.  Now they are held to satisfying the whims of their bosses who are appointed by politicians who have been bought by the winning contractor's shareholders.  As a result, a lot of really good project managers (good being defined as capable of estimating the time and cost of a project and then being able to bring it in) are unemployed.

    Is a shame.

    •  So are a lot of the good American Engineers (5+ / 0-)

      who could have worked on this.  There is more and more evidence that the contractor has sent a lot of the work off shore to Southeast Asia and is also using H1b visa Temp Guest Workers.

      There are job boards in India that are looking for all kinds of IT people who understand our health insurance rules and regs.

      And we wonder why the USA has fallen behind in IT

      Congressional elections have consequences!

      by Cordyc on Sun Oct 20, 2013 at 03:12:02 PM PDT

      [ Parent ]

  •  President Obama.. (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:

    Admit the mistake. Apologize. And pull the pile if stink, NOW. It's only going to get worse. The website issues are the tip of the iceberg.

    Delay a few months, take the heat, then roll out something that works. The current strategy will do more harm than a delay.

    What is so unnerving about the candidacy of Sarah Palin is the degree to which she represents—and her supporters celebrate—the joyful marriage of confidence and ignorance. SAM HARRIS

    by Cpqemp on Sun Oct 20, 2013 at 03:03:55 PM PDT

    •  Bad strategy. Truly. (1+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:

      Just fix it.

      •  That would be great.. (1+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:

        Unfortunately, there is no time. Things need to be buttoned down BEFORE Jan 1st. I don't see it happening in time.

        Certain delays are inevitable. It's how they manage them PR wise that is now the question, imv.

        What is so unnerving about the candidacy of Sarah Palin is the degree to which she represents—and her supporters celebrate—the joyful marriage of confidence and ignorance. SAM HARRIS

        by Cpqemp on Sun Oct 20, 2013 at 03:53:05 PM PDT

        [ Parent ]

  •  Could you provide some links? (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:

    Especially regarding the contractor who signed off on operational readiness.

  •  It happens to lots of websites (3+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    sviscusi, Eyesbright, wildweezle

    I bank with Navy Federal Credit Union and they just completed (or are in the process of completing) an "upgrade" to their website.  It is a disaster.  Half the time I can't log on and trying to get my accounts to download to Quicken has been a nightmare.  I am going to give it a week or so before trying to log on again and hopefully they will have it fixed.

  •  The problems will work themselves out (2+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    amsterdam, wildweezle

    I don't understand why the website problems should be much of an issue for practical purposes, that is, apart from bad PR.

    The people who currently can get health insurance through their employer are not going to switch, because employers pay part of the premiums for such health insurance as part of their compensation package.  So the employer based health insurance is always going to be cheaper.  

    Some of the traffic on is traffic from people shopping to see if they can beat the price of their employer based health insurance.  That traffic is going to taper off, as people with employer based insurance stop window shopping.  

    The uninsured consist of three groups:  (1) people who are qualified or will be qualified for Medicaid but just haven't signed up for it; (2) people who are going to be eligible for subsidized policies under the ACA; and (3) people who can afford health insurance, and who are not going to be subsidized, but simply have been choosing not to buy it.

    People who are eligible for Medicaid can sign up through the usual procedures in their State.  An example would be Oregon, whose online marketplace was a flop (as I understand it), but which had tremendous success in signing up this population on paper. As another example, when Massachusetts implemented Romneycare, they had health care providers involved in signing people up for Medicaid.

    As has been pointed out frequently, the third group of people don't need to buy through, because they are not going to be getting any subsidies.  Once they decide what policy they want, they can just go directly to the insurer or go through an online broker.

    That leaves the people who are going to be eligible for the subsidized policies. Those are the people who really need to use (assuming they are in a state without its own marketplace).  While the website apparently has problems with high traffic, it does work, and this population will be persistent and will successfully be enrolled.

    •  Problems are not just high traffic (1+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:

      The Administration has admitted that there are some design problems as well -- not being able to shop without creating an account (has now been fixed, I understand); the interfaces with Experian and Social Security/IRS (to verify income) not working well or even at all; etc. etc.

      So no, it's not completely working. (I'm in one of the states with a separate state site, but it had to talk to the Federal income verification widget, and couldn't -- so I had to go into the office with my back tax returns and they had to manually verify the information; that was supposed to happen seamlessly.)  

      That said, I agree that this type of problem is not unusual, and a good team of programmers works them out as they go. It's just that this was extremely high profile, with millions of people watching to see if it would fly or crash, and thousands with a heavy stake in seeing it crash.

  •  I think the biggest issue was (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:

    The Government took too long to nail down what the site was to do, then they didn't shut up, they kept giving new directives. I'll bet it was the Goverment that dictated you Register before shopping. The contractor likely was not given the time to do the job. I heard others say it, but you should have been able to pick your state, your income, ages of those covered and see what plans I can pick. Period. Then a button to create an account with an email address. From there, you can register any old time.

  •  I am sorry to say that it is both. (4+ / 0-)

    The almost exclusive reliance on internet is also a huge problem.

    If the government doesn't take responsibility for their part in this fiasco, then their credibility is even more at risk than it already is.

    Americans forgive screw ups, BUT only if all parties own up; ask for forgiveness; and appear to make appropriate changes.

    Ask David Vitter, he's a pro at that and he doesn't even change his ways - lol.

    My point is that trying to pass off the blame to "government contractors" won't cut it and won't help the situation.  It will become a distraction and fodder for Faux News. et al.

    The government - this administration's people - hired this contractor - they can't escape that.  They should fire them and start over probably.

    The fact that the Spanish language version of the site is not only delayed now, but also was not rolled out with the English version only compounds the nightmare of clear screw up.  Contractors do not make those decisions.

    I have a lot more to say about the fact that Americans are forced to pick insurance during short windows of time; about how this has been a process for decades now that should have been good enough for the contractors and administrators to understand the weight of their task years ago now; and how we should really just be on single-payer which our President rejected from the outset, but what the fuck - who cares about all of that reality-based stuff.  Let's discuss cutting Medicare and Social Security instead!  Right?

    I might really think someone is nice and well-meaning, but when they screw up something important, likability isn't a professional enough metric upon which to judge execution of a project.  The deliverables have to be there.  Apparently, right now they are really hard to get to.  Needs to be fixed.

    Happy Sunday!

  • headline: $300M for ACA website. (4+ / 0-)

     Hmm, that would buy about 1 wing of a fancy fighter jet, yet I don't see NBC complaining about how costly and over budget those are.

    My Karma just ran over your Dogma

    by FoundingFatherDAR on Sun Oct 20, 2013 at 04:36:34 PM PDT

  •  Disagree with the diarist on two points (2+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    mommyof3, wildweezle

    First, the diarist "WW", assigns blame for the poor website to the contractor.
    From what I can see the govt. set an impossible task for the contractor. Not enough time, fantasyland specifications and not enough money to make the impossible happen will doom any project. So the govt. is partially to blame.
    The contractor has a responsibility to tell the client if it can't be done. The contractor is the expert and they need to let the client know. So the contractor is also to blame.
    Second, WW is upset because Chris Hayes doesn't profess that same point of view in his report (assigning blame) and then, in addition, extrapolate out coverage of problems with contractors shoddy work for govt. clients.
    Hmmm... well... huh? No, just... no.
    Hayes doesn't have to agree with WW to be a good journalist. Hayes IS a good journalist.
    Then, to take the big leap to ALL the media is remiss because WW isn't aware of coverage of govt. contractors is off the mark.
    Here is a much better diary dealing with the website and assigning blame:

    •  I would posit that the not enough time part... (3+ / 0-)

      would be in response to having to wait for final specs after all the suing to stop implementation ended at the Supreme Court...hard to design a project with moving targets for specifications.

      There is plenty of blame to go around, for sure.  I am more interested in finding out how the fixing is going.  

      Our country can survive war, disease, and poverty... what it cannot do without is justice.

      by mommyof3 on Sun Oct 20, 2013 at 05:16:06 PM PDT

      [ Parent ]

    •  Probably should have been rebid (1+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:

      after a respecification, based on comments from prospective bidders, but the time crunch was on them.

    •  Well the Point of the Diary is: (1+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:

      First of all Blame was assigned to two areas in the Diary:

      1.  The Government Contractor (private contractor responsible for the design, develop, and implementation of the system);
      2.  The Government Representative (government employee) who accepted the system and signed off on its operational readiness.

      It is right there in the diary.  Right there in the Title and Introduction as a matter of fact.

      Second, WW is upset because we have an excellent opportunity to expose the abuses of government contracting and shed light on the cost overruns. There is no better platform than the upcoming budget negotiations yet I don't see our news media drawing parallels between existing overrunning government contracts costing the taxpayer billions and this new one in the implementation of the ACA IT Infrastructure.

      That also is right there in the diary.

      The point of the diary was not to troubleshoot the ACA IT infrastructure and fix it.  It was about getting the news media to help the taxpayer expose the massive list of government contracts with cost overruns and the culture surrounding it.  According to the GAO the 98 Major Defense Acquisition Programs from Fiscal Year 2010 collectively ran $402 billion over budget and were an average of 22 months behind schedule since their first full estimate.

      Very soon Congress will be fussing over cutting the Federal budget.  Seems like looking for waste and abuse in the contracting system would be a great place to start.

      That was the point of the diary.

  •  I would rec this 50 times over. Nail hit on head ! (4+ / 0-)

    And this has been going on for one hell of a long time.

    I remember in the 1950's/60's hearing about contractors trying to bribe people responsible for ship building and repair for the US Navy to do exactly what you're talking about.

    There were the scandals during the Truman Administration about military contracts. And it wasn't new then.

    This is way more important right now than any of they other nonsense the "journalists" are propagating.. At some point we MUST get this right. And I think it ought to start with dumping the contractors and having actual government employees do necessary work.

    The contractors are running this country into the ground. And I do mean what I am saying. They are driving the bus, stealing from us right and left, and the latest nonsense is the "scandal" with the Navy that's on the front page of the NY Times.

    Except I can't imagine why it's a supposed to be a scandal when we should have known about all this forever.

    Contractors in Iraq and Afghanistan, anyone? How many billions of the debt the R's are carrying on about are due to that garbage?

    Want to make a list of unnecessary and hideously over-priced "contract" we're paying for ?

    Fraud is fraud, theft is theft ! When will there be justice for the American people on this issue?

    I must be dreaming...

    by murphy on Sun Oct 20, 2013 at 04:50:09 PM PDT

  •  Every single bit of software "made" for the (2+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    wildweezle, sethtriggs

    government by a private contractor is unwieldy, user unfriendly, and a piece of shit.  The story I heard once was that someone high up sees some software, likes it and hires the company to develop something similar for the agency.  We spend way too much time trying to learn it.  By the time you almost get it learned, they discover it sucks, change it and you are wasting time learning something new again.

    I sit at my computer using Windows and being able to drag and drop, etc. and then wonder why the government developed software doesn't have any of the simple tools ordinary software does.

    GovTrip, WebTCAS, it all stinks.

    And it probably costs us more in the long run.

    •  Issue is often the spec (3+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      Sparhawk, wildweezle, sethtriggs

      See my comment below. If the spec is wrong, the software will be wronger.

      And the person in the government who writes the spec may be a bureaucrat not a tech or user specialist.

      In the best case, the government has a contract with a nonbidding expert to help write the spec. That takes time, probably did not happen in this case (rushed bidding, rushed contract).

  •  This makes me wonder about February 15.... (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:

     If this website is still struggling to function, then Reps will have the ammo to say "let's shut down the govt!" And the people will believe them much more than this time.

  •  The profit motive of contractor firms means (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:

    that their services are inherently more costly than employing the workers to do the same work 'in house.' Using contractors saves money only for project work that is short term in nature. And if you have enough projects to keep the employees productive year round, as the federal government does, it's still often cost effective to hire the workers individually rather than outsource and pay for the contracting firm's profit margin.

    preborner: (n.) one who believes that the right to life begins at conception and ends at birth.

    by 1BQ on Sun Oct 20, 2013 at 05:28:18 PM PDT

  •  Somehow, I think if the NSA would have built it (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:

    it would be working just fine.

    It's not Democrats v. Republicans or Liberal v. Conservative. It's People v. Money, and Money is winning.

    by superfly on Sun Oct 20, 2013 at 05:33:23 PM PDT

  •  Issue also partly spec document? (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:

    I had pointed out to me today that a major issue in contracts like this is also often the original specification document, the procurement, or RFP. If enough care or study is not taken in preparing this, the effort may be creating an inadequate or malfunctioning product because that is what was unfortunately asked for.

    In an ideal case there is a lot of give and take between the top bidders and the government contracting and technical officers before the contract is awarded. In getting questions answered, refinements and improvements often are discovered. But given the time crunch, and there was a severe time crunch on this, that process probably never happened.

    Thus the error of making people register before they can browse anything.

    But the largest and most complex problem MUST be the interlinking with the back-end legacy systems in the government and the insurance companies.

  •  My son just registered, took him less than 20 min. (2+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    wildweezle, CoyoteMarti

    He encountered not a single glitch so far.

    We'll spend the next few days looking at the plans available for Illinois (so Federal plans).

    Are people still saying they're having problems, cuz you sure wouldn't know it from what he just did?  Where are they encountering them?  

    •  I'm in IL too and yes registration was easy. BUT. (3+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      edwardssl, wildweezle, sethtriggs

      And I know the plan I want. BUT the system won't let me go back in to qualify for the tax subsidy and finally enroll. When I click on the 'continue enrollment' button the error message is (has been for a week) 'page not found'. Some here suggest that us early applicants' files are corrupted or have bad page links because of the work still being done on the system, and to reapply with a different email. Will call the customer service number Monday first, before I try setting up a new account. Wish your son, as a later applicant, better luck! By the way, IL is using the federal web site, but we are a fed/state coop arrangement so the plans are IL-designed and approved.

      When the power of love overcomes the love of power, the world will know peace.

      by CoyoteMarti on Mon Oct 21, 2013 at 12:54:29 AM PDT

      [ Parent ]

  •  The contractors aren't the problem, it's the (0+ / 0-)

    people who gave them the contract fcol.

    Word Press?


  •  Just want to point out... (2+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    wildweezle, sethtriggs matter the problems with the web site, it is an access point to ACA/Obamacare, not ACA/Obamacare itself.

    People are accessing via phone and snail mail in addition to enduring the admittedly "buggy" web site because this is on balance a better deal than pre-ACA for most currently uninsured and  those who were already on the open insurance market.

    Change does not roll in on the wheels of inevitability, but comes through continuous struggle. --Martin Luther King Jr.

    by Egalitare on Sun Oct 20, 2013 at 06:46:14 PM PDT

  •  Yeah it was systems analyst number 123's fault (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:

    Jeez. It has been an undeniable disaster. Will it get better Sure? But pretending that is isn't a government failure and blaming "contractors" and anonymous bureaucrats is ridiculous. Who is charge?

    C'mon guys.

  •  Olmstead locks are being built by the Army Corps (0+ / 0-)

    of Engineers. So no contracts there.

  •  In my humble experience (2+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    Citizenpower, wildweezle

    It is a wonder that the ystem is operational at all at this stage.  More often than not the purpose of the contract is to provide a revenue stream:
    From this point of view, cost overruns,  slipshod analysis,  re-design and lingering issues to resolve are central tools to keep the stream gushing.
      In the last few years, i have seen SAIC, a Rethug outfit take a $35 million dollar contract up   $800 million.  The mayor resisted investigation.   It turned out tha most of the money went for nothing.  
      Then there was the 500 million that went to Maximus via Rudolph Guiliani.  Again when an investigation was attempted,  that mayor objected.  That contract was terminated for failure to produce.

    So, my hat goes off to Ms Sibelius and company.

  •  "who worry more about selling their latest book.." (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:

    Hmm... Journalists who "worry more about selling their latest book than bringing us valuable information..."

    Whoever could we be talking about?  Could it be a certain someone whose initials are "C.M.", who broadcasts every weeknight @ 7:00 pm on MSNBC, and who is famous for his over-caffeinated style of taking 45 seconds to ask a single question, then aggressively interrupting his guest as soon as she/he tries to answer?  The same guy who's been relentlessly pushing his latest book down our throats at every opportunity for the past three weeks?

    Hmm...I wonder...

    All that is necessary for the triumph of the Right is that progressives do nothing.

    by Mystic Michael on Sun Oct 20, 2013 at 10:47:00 PM PDT

  •  Someone is responsible who chose that contractor (2+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    matador, wildweezle

    In the private sector generally you eliminate the highest and lowest bid for a contract automatically.

    A decent purchasing manager would not accept a bid that is unrealistically low, because he or she knows that they will end up paying more in the long run, or pay for services that are never realized.

    There is always a lot of pressure to take the lowest bid, but if there is a competent manager he will "push back" to make sure that he secures the contract that is going to get the job done.

    Having said that I don't know if it is even realistic to have a "roll out" of the size of ACA, and not have the types of problems that are happening now.

    The only difference maybe that there is an enormous spotlight on this project, and 10 of millions of people would actually like for it to fail.

  •  It's bit of both (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:

    Kind of like an architect who has no knowledge of construction - they may design something that simply cannot be built. My guess is the Government people wrote some funky specs, and there wasn't a good dialogue with the contractors about what they could actually deliver. That's on the Project Manager, in my opinion.

    The United States does not negotiate with terrorists - that includes Republicans.

    by frsbdg on Mon Oct 21, 2013 at 01:16:32 AM PDT

    •  It's on Obama too. (2+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      wildweezle, frsbdg

      Here you are, the President, rolling out the most important piece of legislation of your term. Your legacy hinges upon it as well as the health of millions of Americans.

      This crappy rollout is inexcusable. And the blame goes all the way up the chain of command.

      Now, lets look at it relative terms. Bush hired this guy named Rumsfeld who did not anticipate the high level of insurgency in Iraq. He even said so. Many of our service personel were blown up by IED's and many others lost limbs and faces. By contrast, thousands are already being helped by the ACA. Many lives are being saved and health and quality of life too.

      THIS. . .can be fixed!

  •  This is what I've objected to all along (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:

    Insurance, medical, and pharmaceutical corporations will be making record setting profits off of the medical misfortunes of all of us..., and the damned $COTU$ made this corporate highway robbery LEGAL by saying it can be considered a "tax."

    Medicare Part D (prescription insurance) is SEPARATE from Medicare Part A and Part B which is paid for by payroll deductions and deductions from Social Security (and the remainder is deposited in our bank accounts) - hardly anyone seems to realize that while we stop paying Social Security Insurance (FICA), we do NOT stop paying for Medicare once we receive Social Security (or SSDI if we're disabled before collecting SSI).  Part D came with the caveat "buy this corporate insurance or else."  No penalty, just the threat of a penalty to come down the pike (like they could get much of a penalty from senior citizens who aren't getting much money now under SSI and who could die before they could collect the "or else" fine).

    Medicare Part D was the example used to write Obamacare.  "Buy this corporate insurance or pay $1000" is the new caveat.

    Medicare Part A and Part B is already a not-for-profit single-payer medical insurance which is what We The People have wanted all along and EVERY elected official said could never pass (they never said why, other than blaming it on the vague "other side" wouldn't vote for it).

    What SHOULD have been done is to transfer Part D to the rest of Medicare Part A and Part B, cover everything (and add dental and optometrists), and allow everyone to buy into Medicare.  New people would have to be hired to handle the paperwork (Job Creation!!!), but it could have SO easily been done!!!

    Instead, we have a fucked up corporate mess, just like what Medicare Part D was when it passed....

    I'm sick of attempts to steer this nation from principles evolved in The Age of Reason to hallucinations derived from illiterate herdsmen. ~ Crashing Vor

    by NonnyO on Mon Oct 21, 2013 at 04:39:48 AM PDT

  •  Oh, I forgot to say: (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:

    I fail to see how Obamacare is going to cost the government much money at all.

    Corporations wrote the laws.  Our Congress Critters rubber-stamped what they wrote.

    Insurance, medical, and pharmaceutical corporations are handling it all, and they are the ones who will be making record-setting profits from collecting all the insurance premiums since people will have to pay premiums straight to the insurance companies..., not to the government.

    I'm sick of attempts to steer this nation from principles evolved in The Age of Reason to hallucinations derived from illiterate herdsmen. ~ Crashing Vor

    by NonnyO on Mon Oct 21, 2013 at 04:44:46 AM PDT

  •  Good Article (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:

    If the substance of the article which presents itself as facts are true, then I agree with the poster.

    "You just can't come To church and PRAY on Sunday & go out and PREY on people the rest of the week" Recited by Nancy Pelosi

    by Keeping It Real on Mon Oct 21, 2013 at 05:36:54 AM PDT

  •  As a former government contractor (2+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    Positronicus, wildweezle

    I approve of this diary!

    "I come close to despair because so many of the pieces of the country are broken, and when you see that, you have two choices: You can give up, or you can do something about it." Elizabeth Warren

    by Ed in Montana on Mon Oct 21, 2013 at 05:54:23 AM PDT

  •  If only DOD did this, they have unlimited funds (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:

    to spend on everything

    "The poor can never be made to suffer enough." Jimmy Breslin

    by merrywidow on Mon Oct 21, 2013 at 06:30:11 AM PDT

  •  Who is the contractor? (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:

    I used to work for a gov't contractor. I will never do that again. In my experience, they are a bunch of lowballing bastards, whose idea of "competitiveness" is to see who can tell the most persuasive lie.

    “Americans are fighters. We're tough, resourceful and creative, and if we have the chance to fight on a level playing field, where everyone pays a fair share and everyone has a real shot, then no one - no one - can stop us. ”-- Elizabeth Warren

    by Positronicus on Mon Oct 21, 2013 at 06:31:35 AM PDT

  •  LOL at the stupid notion that the US gov't is (0+ / 0-)

    a repository of general purpose, cutting edge programming. It just doesn't work that way.

    I get it now. It's not the Tea Party. It's the Neo-Confederate Party.

    by DavidHeart on Mon Oct 21, 2013 at 06:45:00 AM PDT

  •  Your Olmsted Dam example is actually (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:

    quite appropriate, but not for the reason you insinuate.

    Instead, as many others have pointed out for the website, the problem was largely shifting requirements, and in fact ill-conceived requirements and demands from the government, that no contractor could have fulfilled in the allocated time and budget.

  •  "Government for Sale", "Cronyism... (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:

    and corruption are just some of the potential down sides of the ever-increasing push to contract out government functions.  Things like this can happen:  The information systems director ... contracted out city computer work to his private computer consulting business.

    And, our elected officials can manage to reward their cronies and campaign benefactors... by handing out government contractors is a tempting, and often personally rewarding, thing for greedy elected officials to do under the guise of alleged "savings".  

    But selling off government functions to the lowest bidder  isn't necessarily in the best interest of the country of its people:  (emphasis mine)  

    ...Beyond the intelligence area, we can hark back to the last set of outrageous and scandalous privatized behaviors—the privatization of war, with the sharp proliferation of private contractors sent to Iraq and Afghanistan who operated outside the restraints of the U.S. military, the common conventions of behavior in war, and the laws of the countries in which they operated. Murders and rapes clearly occurred multiple times by employees of contractors in these countries, and the perpetrators got off scot-free. There were at times more than 100,000 contractors in Iraq, including nearly 50,000 “soldiers,” many making $1,000 a day, far more than active-duty military, with the money coming from American taxpayers. Conveniently for politicians, if these “soldiers” died, they were not counted in the official death toll of Americans killed in the war.

    Then there is the corruption, which is at least as worrisome as the corruption we have from the lobbying industry interacting with lawmakers and congressional staff, illustrated chillingly by Jack Abramoff and described compellingly by Bob Kaiser in his book So Damn Much Money. If multiple public functions are privatized, or partially privatized, government employees have huge incentives to curry favor with potential private employers by granting them rich contracts or consulting fees, and then subsequently getting jobs paying multiples of their government salaries—or just giving nice perks to one’s former colleagues and friends who left for the private sector. Waste and fraud are legion in Pentagon contracts, Energy Department contracts, and multiple other places. Just last week, The Washington Post reported on an Energy Department inspector general report questioning $450,000 in consulting fees paid to former Rep. Heather Wilson, R-N.M., with the contractors who billed the Energy Department unable to document her work....

    There are reasons why local governments bring back in-house previously privatized work...
    ...The reasons are problems with service quality (61 percent), lack of cost savings (52 percent), improvements in public delivery (34 percent), problems with monitoring (17 percent) and political support to bring the work back in house (17 percent). It turns out citizens prefer local services to be locally controlled and publicly delivered...
    It's too bad that the people responsible for the federal government contracting process either aren't paying attention--or are profiting too much--to objectively and realistically assess whether they are putting the public good before personal profiting from taxpayer dollars.  


  •  "Lowest Bidder" was my first thought. n/t (0+ / 0-)
  •  The Contract Vehicle For the ACA Enterprise System (0+ / 0-)

    CGI Federal is implementing the Affordable Care IT Infrastructure under the Health and Human Services Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services contract Number HHSM-500-2007-00014-00028I Enterprise System Development Indefinite-Delivery, Indefinite-Quantity (IDIQ) contract vehicle.

    CDI Federal along with the following Contractors was awarded the right to bid on future Enterprise System Development work provided through task orders on this contract September 14, 2007.  The total cost at the time for this contract was $4 billion.

    Lockheed Martin
    Northrop Grumman
    CGI Federal
    Buccaneer Computer Systems
    IDL Solutions
    Quality Software Services
    Maricom Systems
    2020 LLC
    iFed LLC
    Alta Systems

    It is difficult to find information on task orders associated with this and all IDIQ contracts because information on the task orders is closed to those companies that are on the IDIQ.  So finding information about the ACA Enterprise System is difficult because the companies involved will not speak.

    Here is an example task order on this particular IDIQ contract and the information provided to the general public on FedBizOpps:

    This notice is provided for informational purposes only.

    This opportunity is available only to Enterprise System Development (ESD) Indefinite Deliver Indefinite Quantity Contract task order contractors.  This IDIQ Task order was competitively awarded in 2007 and in accordance with FAR regulations.  The purpose of this Task Order is to provide Integrated Care and Data Applications.


    Here is an example of information provided by companies performing work on the IDIQ contract responsible for implementing the ACA Enterprise System.  From CNN.

    Now, how does the taxpayer determine if he is being robbed?

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