According to the Los Angeles Times, the federal government’s failures on the Healthcare.gov exchanges are not the first or only failures by the feds in the recent past when it comes to major internet initiatives. Last year, the General Services Administration attempted to merge nine contracting databases at SAM.gov. The site had to be delayed for two months, then removed completely until it could be fixed. And the GSA then let it slip that users’ personal information could have gone public during the process. As the Times notes, “Websites crash, attempts to modernize systems founder and military systems costing hundreds of millions are abandoned before ever being used.”
President Obama himself has acknowledged massive government screw-ups when it comes to its websites, stating, “there’s probably no bigger gap between the private sector and the public sector than IT.” So why is the government attempting to take over the health insurance industry? Obama has no answer. And he has no answer to the fact that the feds will spend $76 billion on information technology, and that $12.5 billion worth was “in trouble” as of January.
The web effort for Healthcare.gov was plagued by missed deadlines and limited competition: “With the clock ticking, the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services decided to limit competition to 16 companies that had already been qualified under an open-ended contract from five years earlier.”
The government takes so long to figure out exactly with whom to contract that by the time it does, the technology is often obsolete. Costs are underestimated, and expertise simply doesn’t exist at the government level. And big companies usually get bids because they’re larger – and when they don’t deliver, they sometimes protest.
Last year, the Times reports, the Air Force shut down a web project to improve supply management, but not before blowing $1 billion.