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White House sends in the cavalry to fix Healthcare.gov

cavalry

The White House is sending in teams of experts to fix badly broken Healthcare.gov. The project has 55 contractors. Sending in SWAT teams of politically connected individuals who know nothing about the project but want it fixed NOW is a recipe for more disaster.

At least two major parts of healthcare.gov aren’t functioning. 1) The Spanish-language version doesn’t work. Really? WordPress blogs have multi-language plugins but a $500 million website can’t so a Spanish version? 2) Low-income Americans can’t sign up for Medicaid. Oh, they can check to see if they qualify, and if they do, the system them tells them to apply at their state Medicaid office, where they have to re-enter all the data again. Imagine their excitement when this happens.

Health Secretary Kathleen Sebelius apparently was blindsided by the failure of the website and was focused primarily on promoting Obamacare. She also says Obama didn’t know about the problems until the site went live, a statement absolutely no one believes.

Techies who have worked on federal software projects say a major problem is a broken federal procurement system and legacy systems.

Are we not grasping the nature of the problem itself? TPM Reader ST says the issue isn’t so much the website as legacy computer systems throughout the federal bureaucracy and the need to stitch them all together until a single interface.

Word of Pie has a fine rant.

You would have ALL failed miserably.

Federal IT is broken. Hell, all of Federal contracting is broken from what I’ve seen, but I want to focus on the IT side for now.

In Federal IT, typically nobody with both knowledge and authority owns all the components of a system. Even on smaller efforts, one contractor owns the data center, another runs the database infrastructure, one is developing the actual system, and a fourth contractor is in charge of making sure all the rules are followed.

I hate that fourth contractor. From what I can tell, they believe they won’t get paid if they don’t find problems in the documentation, the project plan, or your accent. I’ve seen projects held up because the columns in a table weren’t perfectly aligned.

So, you have a behemoth new system that must send and receive data from multiple federal agencies with creaky legacy software. No one appears to be in charge of the system. And now they’re sending in the cavalry to fix a system they know nothing about?

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