It seems today's politicians are (at least in some cases) familiar with what it takes to build reliable software. Perhaps the problem is that they are only willing to see that it's done when it benefits them directly, but not when their constituents need it.
Basically, it seems like the government sourcing process has shrunk the pool of potential bidders too small to provide a properly competitive marketplace for software for USGov customers.
And don't think for a second that this is unintentional.
I think it's actually achieved that goal. It comes at the expense of competence, however, as those with the best lawyers (not best developers) win contracts.
Okay, what if I do?
If you are anything but cynical regarding the government contract bidding process, you're asking to be made a fool of.
But put that in the government, and you're potentially disenfranchising 5% of the citizenry which is not only politically foolish but quite likely illegal, given constitutional requirements about equal treatment and so forth. If you have to provide universal service of some kind, then your marginal costs go way up. Suppose 99% correctness were the acceptable standard, such that Social Security, Medicare, VA etc. could just ditch that 1% of claimants that caused the most administrative problems; the administrative savings would probably be far more than 1%, I'm guessing more like 10-15% because once the administrative burden of dealing with a given citizen rose above 1 or 2 standard deviations you could just dump them from the system and cut your losses.
I understand it's chic to think that Healtcare.gov is "just another website", especially among a certain crowd who think that all development is web development, and best done on a MacbookPro using RoR/node/<functional language Y>/Go + <insert fad-of-the-day JS framework here>. It's a mistaken impression, though, because we aren't talking about some from-scratch system. We're talking about communication with and between a lot of legacy systems requiring what is almost certainly a frankenstein-like nightmare of patchwork APIs that dive into programming languages and styles hipster 20-somethings at hot S.F. Start Up X wouldn't understand because it's beneath them (I'm exaggerating and generalizing here for effect--this isn't to impugn all 20-somethings, start-ups, etc.).
Honestly I don't think there is any contractor who could have pulled this project off flawlessly, or even very much better than the group of misfits who did Healthcare.gov did, just because of the sheer complexity of the project compounded with the increased politically-motivated interference from government officials that comes with such high-profile projects.
The site literally does not function, this has nothing to do with integrations.
A few flaws could be excused but the site was a disaster.
> or even very much better than the group of misfits who did Healthcare.gov
In just a couple of months, the current contractor group was able to clean up most of the mess and improve the site dramatically. In just two months! Imagine what they could have pulled off if the group was put together earlier.
And when it failed, the government would be criticized for hiring a start-up to do a job that was obviously so enormous that only a big established contractor could take it on. And rightfully so.
Fixed that for you.
Sure, a mythical online website built from scratch in Node.js with a Mongo backend can be out together by a bunch of college graduates, but without talking to a dozen other systems this site is not going to do much, and as soon as you take people out of the comfort zone of shiny toys we'll see how long the remain interested when you end up in SOAP and CORBA or are screen scraping mainframes. The people willing to tolerate this mess don't generally intersect with the startup crowd.
But this is a space that could be disrupted (albeit not easily). And isn't Clever trying to do something similar in the education space?
Interaction with legacy systems is all the future has left, plus its a problem - and the most elegant hack to scrape the aging DoJ mainframe wins the prize.
No, its clear public data architecture has to change.
People are fucking dying because they can't get coverage.
Worth a shot.
The damned thing doesn't have to work, it just has to make the administration look good. The White House gets to look forward-thinking in rolling out this amazing new technology to help fix healthcare, and they get to look good by being the underdog victim fighting against the bloated government contractor that tried to defraud the taxpayer.
All you have to do is take the money, play the patsy, and everything will be fine.
I.e. the government's Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) were notoriously the "prime contractor" until the 3rd week of October (when replaced by contractor QSSI, also responsible for the "data hub"), and the attacks on the contractors are misplaced when their management was so impossibly bad.
The linked Washington Post article is not great, but better: http://www.washingtonpost.com/politics/obama-administration-...
Hasn't California's exchange had big problems too?
Arthur Andersen spawned Andersen Consulting spawned Arthur Anderson Business Consulting spawned Accenture. Some of AABC splintered off and joined Hitachi Consulting, some went elsewhere.
The history of computer consulting is varied, interesting, and tragic.
They have an online chat queue for customer support that's similarly busted; you sit in the queue for hours with the ETA randomly changing before it says you've been booted out of the queue.
If Washington DC is, in fact, really that stupid and it is not intentional, under what strange notion of justice am I to pay taxes to these morons?
However, the resulting vector of their efforts and failures may very well point into that direction, and not without their cooperation and help, since once they beat insurance industry into full dependency and make the population rely on subsidized care, the next logical step would be to eliminate the middlemen - there would be no point for them to exist anymore, at least not as independent entities - given that they would have no independence as such and serve no useful function in such setup.
Probably not the only one. I don't think they were intentional, but I pray you're right because single-payer is a much superior system.
It's obvious that government shouldn't be in the software business, and the government would agree "that's why we use contractors for this!". But when 100% of your revenue comes from the government, in a way you're basically the same thing.
Companies usually win contracts of this magnitude because they "have people who know people". Consequently, "CGI Federal" is, or at least was, well connected with the people in government necessary to shovel boondoggles their way. It is what it is.
I guess in this case the poor optics overcame the connections.