Forgot your password?
United States Government Medicine The Almighty Buck IT Politics

Cost of $634 Million — So Far 497

Posted by timothy
from the oh-c'mon-what's-a-sevenfold-increase-among-friends? dept.
First time accepted submitter Saethan writes ", the site to be used by people in 36 states to get insurance as part of the Affordable Care Act, has apparently cost the U.S. Government $634 million. Not only is this more than Facebook spent during its first 6 years in operation, it is also over $500 million above what the original estimate was: $93.7 million. Why, in a country with some of the best web development companies in the world, has this website, which is poor quality at best, cost so much?" That $634 million figure comes from this U.S. government budget-tracking system. Given that this system is national rather than for a single city, maybe everyone should just be grateful the contract didn't go to TechnoDyne.
This discussion has been archived. No new comments can be posted.

Cost of $634 Million — So Far

Comments Filter:
  • by raymorris (2726007) on Thursday October 10, 2013 @08:45AM (#45090695)

    It seems to me that the larger the bill and the larger the company sending that bill, the lower the competency.

    Our three-person company handles web sites serving hundreds of thousands of users per day for a few thousand dollars. We could easily handle a few million users by adding a few more database servers at a cost of around ten thousand.

  • Re:What the hell (Score:4, Interesting)

    by Sarten-X (1102295) on Thursday October 10, 2013 @09:08AM (#45091027) Homepage
    Agreed. That would likely have worked out much better... but politically, it's impossible. Why does district X get access, but not district Y? That particular random criterion is slightly correlated with this obscure trait, so clearly the politicians in charge are working for or against those people, and don't deserve to be reelected...
  • Re:simple (Score:5, Interesting)

    by ZahrGnosis (66741) on Thursday October 10, 2013 @09:09AM (#45091037) Homepage

    Plenty of talented developers and teams get crushed by government red tape, bureaucracy, and the simple inability of most government agencies to manage their contracts. I can't figure out why but there is an enormous attraction for government program managers to micro-manage. Having worked on a handful of very expensive, very large government programs I can tell you that either side can make a project a disaster. But I've been on teams that can roll out a successful commercial project in 3 months that takes 3 years for nearly identical functionality in the public sector (DoD in my case). It's not incompetence at the individual level, either, in my experience; it's something institutional. Too many regulations that cause inflexibility and twisted risk/reward feedback for both costs and personal performance, and the antithesis of an evolution-as-improvement driven culture to match changing development standards.

  • by tylikcat (1578365) on Thursday October 10, 2013 @09:12AM (#45091069)

    I'd be curious about this greater complexity assertion. A large part of the project requirement is that it effectively and securely pulls data from a large number of already existing government systems. In my experience, dealing with those kind of externalities is most often neither easy nor cheap... and certainly pretty darned complex. What are you comparing it to?

  • Re:simple (Score:4, Interesting)

    by aaarrrgggh (9205) on Thursday October 10, 2013 @09:21AM (#45091219)

    Government contracting is a bear and adds at least 30% inefficiency to the process for a small project; can't say on a large project but I imagine the percentage remains fairly constant. Just dealing with the timesheets and accounting is a nightmare.

    BUT, to the GP's point, successful government contractors are the ones that have project managers whose sole purpose is to bastardize scope to justify additional services along every step of the way. They trap you into the additional work; it is an art in a way.

    As to the WMBE participation, it does lead to abuses, but the idea is that it keeps *everything* from being centralized into a company like Lockheed Martin or Northrop Grumman, and instead makes them spread things out at worst, and gives competition at best.

  • Re:simple (Score:2, Interesting)

    by Anonymous Coward on Thursday October 10, 2013 @09:32AM (#45091435)

    It's difficult to jump through all the necessary hoops to confirm that your company meets the requirements (women, minorities, veterans, small businesses).

    It's so difficult that only companies with a huge number of staff are capable of doing it. Preferably a company that gives generously to lobbyists and political campaigns.

    If you think that the "women, minorities, veterans preference" means anything at all in the real world, please give some examples. Good luck.

    Most states will have help for business to navigate that labyrinth, for free usually. I took a company though a bunch of it, we got 8(a) certification (woman owned small business), we got into a program where we received a ton of (mostly worthless to us as a business but very expensive) consulting help. We were also on track for 'governors trade missions' for marketing purposes and a few other smaller programs.

    These state employees in return for these things wanted me to join certain of their other (paid) programs, like 'CEO Round Table'. They also host a shit ton of meetings and workshops that they want you to attend (free, but they need attendance). I also got a lot of calls, emails etc. asking me to give recommendations to these programs so they could get funding to continue.

    And yes, due to 8(a) I'm pretty sure we got a few contracts/sales, the government purchasers have quotas to meet for the various minority business.

  • Re:simple (Score:4, Interesting)

    by Laxori666 (748529) on Thursday October 10, 2013 @10:47AM (#45092485) Homepage
    I think the actual one is a step beyond yours - it's that they have no reason to keep costs down. If the budget gets too large, they can get allocated more money. If there isn't more money, they can raise taxes. If they can't raise taxes, they can create money by issuing bonds that unconditionally get bought by the Federal Reserve. There's no profit motive, so there's no reason to keep costs down. Thus everyone along the way can balloon expenses to either make themselves more important or make more money for themselves in the process. This means the ridiculous costs and operating procedures that you cite can exist and flourish in such an environment.

    Note that this also tends to happen with huge corporations - they waste a lot of money - but they have a sharper limit than the government because they can't do the taxing & money-creation thing.
  • Re:simple (Score:4, Interesting)

    by GodfatherofSoul (174979) on Thursday October 10, 2013 @10:48AM (#45092509)

    That website isn't blowing up because heroic contractors are being stifled by government regulations. It's a pretty crappy UI. It took me forever just to find the actual plan costs and the filtering all (powered by Solara) blows. I'm sure overregulations also aren't the reason they can't handle the traffic they're getting and logins send you to blank pages. The site is so busy trying to explain everything that it obfuscates the 1st things that people want to know; what does it cover and how much does it cost. Try navigating that site to find the difference between the metal plans to see what I mean.

    I talked to Experian which is involved in user validation (and where I bet a lot of that $634M is going) and it turns out that on failed validation attempts (which must be another bug in their code) aren't even being submitted to them manually for about a day. So, when it invariably blows up, you've got to wait that long to complete your application.

    I'm not saying there's no government red tape driving the website design, but I think the whole site has major problems on the macro- and micro-levels that I can't imagine are because "that's how the law said to do it."

"Don't worry about people stealing your ideas. If your ideas are any good, you'll have to ram them down people's throats." -- Howard Aiken