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United States Businesses Technology

How Dumb Policies Scare Tech Giants Away From Federal Projects 143

Posted by samzenpus
from the you-get-what-you-pay-for dept.
An anonymous reader writes "A study published in March found that that the reason why the U.S. government has sub-par IT programs is because leading commercial IT companies established in the U.S. aren't involved in government contracting. Either the government holds closed bidding, essentially stifling competition to its own disadvantage, or prospective companies are put off by the cost-prohibitive regulations associated with government acquisition given the low returns (less than 10% as compared to 20% or more in the commercial world). The dysfunction that results has been documented by the Government Accountability Office: of 15 Department of Defense IT projects studied, 11 had cost increases (one of which was by 2,333%), 13 had schedule slippages (one of which was by six years), and only three met system performance goals. If the U.S. wants to lead other governments in technical capabilities by tapping into the technology being developed within its own borders, then some say that instead of exemptions and workarounds such as was applied with Healthcare.gov, a complete rebuild of the whole acquisition program would need to be implemented."
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How Dumb Policies Scare Tech Giants Away From Federal Projects

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  • by Anonymous Coward on Thursday May 08, 2014 @07:27PM (#46954715)

    In house can lead to cost saving from both less overhead and from being able to consolidate stuff as well having more buying power as one big unit.

    also you can more to getter better people as you are not paying all of the contacting overhead.

  • AC for reasons. (Score:4, Interesting)

    by Anonymous Coward on Thursday May 08, 2014 @07:49PM (#46954845)

    I've been an employee of one of these contract IT companies for a little over 2 years, and I can tell you that my contract is undoubtedly no different.

    From my perspective as a software developer, it seems like the issues are all deliberate. There's been a pattern since I've worked here. Everytime a competent developer leaves, they're replaced by someone who can't develop software. Sometimes it's the chief's friend, or some government employee's wife, or whatever. But no fewer than 3 positions on my team have been taken up by people who have no computer science education, no interest in software development, and no inclination to learn.

    Last person that was hired, someone came over to tell me 4 minutes before his interview. I printed off a ludicrously simple programming problem and handed it to him, asked him if he'd have the guy "solve" it. The manager interviewing let the candidate hesitate on the problem for 4 seconds before pulling it from him, and saying "don't worry about it, I want to keep this interview short.". So my team is down another programmer and + another welfare recipient.

    The only reason I've stayed her so long is that the work is occasionally incredibly interesting, but recently my boss decided to pull me so I could do something to "help the team" it involves clicking links and typing into a spreadsheet for 8 hours a day.

    A few months a government employee decided they needed the area that my team's revision control server occupied as their office. My server was decomissioned, the area was converted to an office, and the government employee transferred to another location less than a month later.

    I complain every few months, but the only thing complaining seems to do is make everyone suspicious of me. I need to get out of here.

  • by aXis100 (690904) on Thursday May 08, 2014 @08:11PM (#46954987)

    I get the feeling that it's nothing to do with being a Government agency. I've seen more than 50% failure rate on very large IT projects for other regular businesses and corporations.

    There seems to be a major problem with sotware projects producing an accurate requirements spec, and following that though to implementation. End users have no idea what they want, fill the requirements full of edge cases, and keep moving the goalposts. Programmers often have no idea how the software will be used so whenever there are gaps they improvise with the most ridiculous schemes. And software architects always say "technology XXXX will save us, it makes YYY so easy", forgetting entirely that you still have to produce a sensible user interface with a sane workflow and that takes 80% of the effort.

    Personally I cant see this getting better for a while. It's not the fault of any one person, it's just human nature when trying to deal with highly complex systems. We need to use a radically different design approach and employ exceptionally good project managers, and even then we might still want to cross our fingers.

  • by Zalgon 26 McGee (101431) on Thursday May 08, 2014 @11:38PM (#46956135)

    Government can't hide its mistakes as well as industry can. How many SAP implementations have delivered on time and on budget? How many other projects have cost companies millions more than planned?

    Yes, government IT is bad, but its not unique in that...

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