CGI Federal, primary contractor. What happened?

WaPo chronicles the disastrous launch of, and CGI Federal, the contractor with primary responsibility. CGI Federal has a spotty history, and is the 12th largest federal government contractor. It seems odd a smaller, less experienced company was chosen when an IBM could have done it. However, a lethargic government approval process delayed things so long that CGI couldn’t get started until this Spring. And that’s simply not enough time for a project of this scope.

Some people think that the system was underfunded: Donald Berwick, who administered the federal Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services in 2010 and 2011, says the site failed because they didn’t have enough money to build it from the start. Others point fingers at the Department of Health and Human Services, which took years to issue final specifications, preventing CGI from really getting started until this spring.

…the problem lies more in a federal procurement apparatus that makes it nearly impossible for an agile newcomer to bid on projects that in the private sector would take much less time and money.

From the comments:

I remember attending several IT training sessions in the early 2000s with people from various beltway bandits, the CGI guys were always idiots compared to anyone else there. It’s a shame – for the administration – they didn’t pay a little more money to buy it from someone who would have done it right from the start, like CSC, Booz Allen (yes, them), IBM, or Lockheed.