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US Gov. Launches Web Site To Track IT Spending

kdawson posted about 5 years ago | from the how-much-for-the-retractable-drink-holders dept.

Government 58

andy1307 writes "Vivek Kundra, the federal chief information officer, announced on Tuesday a new Web site designed to track more than $70 billion in government IT spending, showing all contracts held by major firms within every agency. The (Flash-heavy) site, USAspending.gov, shows detailed information about whether IT contracts are being monitored and budgets being met. The data also show which contracts were won through a competitive process or in a no-bid method (the latter approach is criticized by good-government advocates for excluding firms from business opportunities). Each prime contractor is listed as well as the status of that project; sub-contractors are not yet shown."

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58 comments

Okay what about military, etc? (4, Insightful)

Neuroticwhine (1024687) | about 5 years ago | (#28540715)

Wow this is great.... now what about a detailed log of other governmental spending? Be nice to know where those orders for $20,000 toilet seats are coming out of.

Re:Okay what about military, etc? (1)

bezking (1274298) | about 5 years ago | (#28540757)

Of course we couldn't do that! Imagine:

* Dept of Defense - Wed Jul 1 2009 - $235,000 - Gilded toilet seats for private bathrooms.

If the government actually TOLD people what they were spending TAXPAYER money on, how on earth could they ever buy things just because they can? The entire American system of government would just collapse. :) BTW, wasn't Vivek Kundra investigated by the FBI a while back?

Re:Okay what about military, etc? (2, Funny)

MindKata (957167) | about 5 years ago | (#28541805)

"how on earth could they ever buy things just because they can"

What like spending money on an IT project to setup a web site to monitor money spent on IT projects?

Maybe they could create another IT project to monitor spending on IT projects that monitor IT projects?

Re:Okay what about military, etc? (2, Interesting)

jellomizer (103300) | about 5 years ago | (#28540797)

The 20k toilet seat. Wasn't because company A sold it to the government for 20k. It was from all the bureaucracy that went to approve it.

Re:Okay what about military, etc? (0, Redundant)

lorenlal (164133) | about 5 years ago | (#28540909)

I thought it was 30,000 for the toilet. Hammers were 20,000. Right? It all goes into that underground government facility where they were holding the aliens. Or was I lied to?

Re:Okay what about military, etc? (1)

rsborg (111459) | about 5 years ago | (#28546511)

The 20k toilet seat. Wasn't because company A sold it to the government for 20k. It was from all the bureaucracy that went to approve it.

By this kind of calculation, any person we hire at any company I've worked at in the past several years would have been paying $25k+ per employee they hired (with an average hiring lead-time that takes 3-6mo), which for some staff would amount to 1/2 to 1/4 of their yearly salary.

Another similarity is the insane process in one of my former companies for acquiring external software that we didn't have site-licenses for: I would say it took $1000+ of worker-time to acquire a $99 license... so did we pay thousands for a hundred-dollar software license?

This kind of math is way off.

Re:Okay what about military, etc? (1)

BoothbyTCD (713107) | about 5 years ago | (#28556771)

The '20k toilet seat' was actually more like 'complete toilet enclosure for a submarine', but that doesn't stop this meme from circulating.

Re:Okay what about military, etc? (4, Informative)

ratnerstar (609443) | about 5 years ago | (#28540857)

The summary is misleading. As best I can figure out, the site tracks ALL government spending, not merely IT. It's a little confusing because they provide a special tool just for IT investments -- the "IT Dashboard" -- which gives you some additional reports. But information about all (non-classified) spending is included on the main site. If you're interested in the DoD, look here [usaspending.gov] .

Re:Okay what about military, etc? (1)

Bigby (659157) | about 5 years ago | (#28542031)

Each major department receives somewhere in the range of $50 billion. The site is quoting only the IT expenditures, which range from $0.3 billion to $3 billion.

Re:Okay what about military, etc? (1)

ratnerstar (609443) | about 5 years ago | (#28542183)

Each major department receives somewhere in the range of $50 billion.

I don't know what this means. It's certainly not literally true, since many departments receive considerably more or less.

The site is quoting only the IT expenditures, which range from $0.3 billion to $3 billion.

You must have an interesting definition of IT if it includes the following:

Top 5 Products or Services Sold
  Aircraft, Fixed Wing $10,458,937,186
  General Health Care Services $5,494,273,332
  Aircraft, Rotary Wing $5,267,130,237
  Liquid Propellants and Fuels, Petroleum Base $5,051,723,867
  Trucks and Truck Tractors, Wheeled $4,120,425,697

Re:Okay what about military, etc? (1)

Bigby (659157) | about 5 years ago | (#28542663)

I didn't see that second site. I was following the link provided from the original story.

Re:Okay what about military, etc? (1)

poetmatt (793785) | about 5 years ago | (#28540965)

You are dead on. What I'm hoping, is that like bad laws, they will use this to creep up the tracking on everything else as well. One can only hope though.

Re:Okay what about military, etc? (1)

SeeSp0tRun (1270464) | about 5 years ago | (#28541365)

It is ironic that the GG is criticizing it for not having subcontractors yet. What about all the Contractors in other governmental budgets? Our budget should be fairly transparent, considering I know I pay taxes, am a legal resident/citizen, and live in one of the most tax-heavy states...

This is a good step in the right direction, now we just need to see this trend spread to other areas.

Afro-American Racism Against Whites and Asians (-1, Offtopic)

Anonymous Coward | about 5 years ago | (#28541485)

During the election, about 95% of African-Americans voted for Barack Hussein Obama due solely to the color of his skin. See the exit-polling data [cnn.com] by CNN.

Note the voting pattern of Hispanics, Asian-Americans, etc. These non-Black minorities serve as a measurement of African-American racism against Whites (and other non-Black folks). Neither Barack Hussein Obama nor John McCain is Hispanic or Asian. So, Hispanics and Asian-Americans used only non-racial criteria in selecting a candidate and, hence, serve as the reference by which we detect a racist voting pattern. Only about 65% of Hispanics and Asian-Americans supported Obama. In other words, a maximum of 65% support by any ethnic or racial group for either McCain or Obama is not racist and, hence, is acceptable. (A maximum of 65% for McCain is okay. So, European-American support at 55% for McCain is well below this threshold and, hence, is not racist.)

If African-Americans were not racist, then at most 65% of them would have supported Obama. At that level of support, McCain would have won the presidential race.

At this point, African-American supremacists (and apologists) claim that African-Americans voted for Obama because he (1) is a member of the Democratic party and (2) supports its ideals. That claim is an outright lie. Look at the exit-polling data [cnn.com] for the Democratic primaries. Consider the case of North Carolina. Again, about 95% of African-Americans voted for him and against Hillary Clinton. Both Clinton and Obama are Democrats, and their official political positions on the campaign trail were nearly identical. Yet, 95% of African-Americans voted for Obama and against Hillary Clinton. Why? African-Americans supported Obama due solely to the color of his skin.

Here is the bottom line. Barack Hussein Obama does not represent mainstream America. He won the election due to the racist voting pattern exhibited by African-Americans.

African-Americans have established that expressing "racial pride" by voting on the basis of skin color is 100% acceptable. Neither the "Wall Street Journal" nor the "New York Times" complained about this racist behavior. Therefore, in future elections, please feel free to express your racial pride by voting on the basis of skin color. Feel free to vote for the non-Black candidates and against the Black candidates if you are not African-American. You need not defend your actions in any way. Voting on the basis of skin color is quite acceptable by today's moral standard.

Re:Okay what about military, etc? (1)

ground.zero.612 (1563557) | about 5 years ago | (#28542287)

Be nice to know where those orders for $20,000 toilet seats are coming out of.

Space Shuttle? ISS? Just guessing here, but I'm quite sure everything built for space missions cost orders of magnitude more than their earthly counterparts.

you do realize why they do that, right? (1)

SuperBanana (662181) | about 5 years ago | (#28542485)

Be nice to know where those orders for $20,000 toilet seats are coming out of.

It'd be nice to know what those $20,000 toilet seats really are- they ain't toilet seats. It's basically fraud/money laundering; the $19980 goes somewhere else, or "toilet seat" is code for "1 ton bomb guidance system to be shipped to somewhere it shouldn't be" or "rocket motor for an ejection seat for a super top secret plane".

Re:Okay what about military, etc? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 5 years ago | (#28543895)

I'm pretty certain the $20k anything were based on a procurement method that averaged the costs of items in an order.

Toilet Seat $50
Jet Fighter $15,000,000
?????

? Items at $20,000 each

Nobody complains about the $20,000 jet fighters though

I wonder (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 5 years ago | (#28540717)

How much did they pay for the SCO licenses for Linux ?

No data on kickbacks (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 5 years ago | (#28540729)

What? No field to track kickbacks and bribes.... That's lame.

Re:No data on kickbacks (1)

lorenlal (164133) | about 5 years ago | (#28540925)

No, it's in there. Look under "Loans."

disregard that, i suck cocks (-1, Troll)

Anonymous Coward | about 5 years ago | (#28540743)

imagine your willy being smacked until it bleeds.

Edgar181

How much.. (3, Interesting)

kazade84 (1078337) | about 5 years ago | (#28540801)

of that $70 billion was spent developing that site? :p

Re:How much.. (-1, Troll)

JesterUSCG (1371271) | about 5 years ago | (#28540861)

Well, 69.9 Billion anyway. I'm sure there was some kind of kick back to a brother in law for getting the contract.

Re: How much.. (3, Interesting)

Black Parrot (19622) | about 5 years ago | (#28540875)

And how much productivity blown off today, as people try to figure out how to use it, then search it for projects they can complain about.

But here's the kicker:

"I talked to the CIO Council and saw the data change overnight," Kundra said. "It was cleaned up immediately when people realized it was going to be made public."

Wonder how much of the data changed in the "looks better now" direction.

Re:How much.. (1)

Capt James McCarthy (860294) | about 5 years ago | (#28541079)

Lowest bidder always gets these results.

I'm Not Going to Lie (5, Interesting)

eldavojohn (898314) | about 5 years ago | (#28540821)

This data really upsets me. From the top 100 recipients this year [usaspending.gov] :

2 NEW YORK STATE DEPT OF HEALTH NY $18,335,672,042 Percent of total: 5.764%
3 TEXAS HEALTH & HUMAN SERVICES COMMISSION TX $13,514,862,175 Percent of total: 4.248%
4 PENNSYLVANIA DEPT OF PUBLIC WELFARE PA $11,168,181,944 Percent of total: 3.511%

The other states fall in at around or less than 1%. I understand those states are high population but that should mean more tax income to the state. So you're telling me that someone who lives in Minnesota is paying Federal taxes to support New York Health Dept and Texas Human Services Dept? I really don't like that when states like Texas are all about "smaller government" and "lower taxes" or that people flock to NYC to be at the "center of the world" yet their taxes don't reflect that cost and other states pick it up. So what, you just shift your debt off to other states and freeload on Federal relief? From the data, around 2007 this started becoming a huge disparity between states. Why? You switched to Vista? Ridiculous.

Re:I'm Not Going to Lie (3, Insightful)

ratnerstar (609443) | about 5 years ago | (#28540991)

Why leave off California? Anyway, I think a more valid comparison would be total dollar spent (see here [usaspending.gov] -- the ranking is pretty much the same) rather than just the largest projects this year. Also, what you really should be doing is looking at net Federal expenditures per state, i.e. the difference between the Federal taxes paid and the Federal grants received. That would tell you whether Minnesota is actually subsidizing New York. The site in question doesn't cover that issue, but here's a pdf from The Tax Foundation [taxfoundation.org] that does. Look over the data yourself, but it looks to me like New York is subsidizing everyone else.

Mod Parent Up (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 5 years ago | (#28541117)

Why leave off California?

Sorry, I didn't see the "CA" to the right of it, it's just titled "Department of Health Care Services" and I thought it was a Federal institution.

Thank you for that taxfoundation.org link, very informative if the data is accurate!

Re:I'm Not Going to Lie (1)

dkleinsc (563838) | about 5 years ago | (#28541731)

Thanks for the links.

From your second chart, it looks to me like New York and Minnesota are net donors at roughly the same level, and the states that are the biggest spenders of federal cash are Mississippi, Arizona, Alaska, and Louisiana. (Mississippi and Louisiana make some sense due to Hurricane Katrina spending among other things.)

Re:I'm Not Going to Lie (1)

Bigby (659157) | about 5 years ago | (#28542199)

It doesn't make sense to spend on Mississippi and Louisiana because of Hurricane Katrina, because you are just subsidizing people living in a dangerous area. When you subsidize something, you get more of it...so we get more people living in dangerous areas then the "market" would allow.

The #1 spender is New Mexico, probably because of the military base that takes up an area the size of Connecticut and there is also Los Alamos Laboratory. The Dakotas are up there for who-knows-why reason.

The ones funding the US are states like New Jersey (high population density helps) and New Hampshire (they just don't like spending or taxing).

Re:I'm Not Going to Lie (1)

stefanlasiewski (63134) | about 5 years ago | (#28545345)

It doesn't make sense to spend on Mississippi and Louisiana because of Hurricane Katrina, because you are just subsidizing people living in a dangerous area.

Many people live in a dangerous area. What's the alternative? Should people vacate Louisiana, Mississippi and Florida because of the hurricanes? California because of the earthquakes? The Northeast because of the snow and ice storms? The Midwest because of the tornadoes, floods and extreme winters?

ND, SD (1)

bussdriver (620565) | about 5 years ago | (#28553787)

The Dakotas are bigtime welfare states that is why. They have the largest airforce base and the largest concentration of nukes to take care of. The rest is farmland which also gets a lot of welfare. Take out the military spending and they'd have no economy outside the university towns.

Re:I'm Not Going to Lie (1)

stefanlasiewski (63134) | about 5 years ago | (#28544969)

Mississippi and Louisiana make some sense due to Hurricane Katrina spending among other things.

Mississippi and Louisiana have had a high federal spending per dollar of tax paid for a very long time, long before Hurricane Katrina. Louisiana has had a notoriously high amount of corruption for a long time, although I read it's been getting better recently.

But Mississippi and Louisiana has alot of politicians screaming for a smaller federal government, when they receive alot of federal aid. It's hypocritical.

I'm fine with using my taxes to help repair some of damage to these states, as long as it's done right.
Floods, earthquakes, storms, ice storms, tornadoes, hurricanes-- most of us live in some sort disaster-prone area anyways, and the federal government can help to mitigate the impact of a disaster and help to get the region and economy back on it's feet.

Re:I'm Not Going to Lie (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 5 years ago | (#28541125)

Oh what...the...fuck....

I work with the data from the Texas HHS. Are you fucking kidding me, 13.5 mill and this is the best they can do?!

*fumes and debates dropping the whole database*

Re:I'm Not Going to Lie (1)

Rasperin (1034758) | about 5 years ago | (#28541601)

Oh what...the...fuck....

I work with the data from the Texas HHS. Are you fucking kidding me, 13.5 bill and this is the best they can do?!

*fumes and debates dropping the whole database*

FTFY

Re:I'm Not Going to Lie (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 5 years ago | (#28542873)

13.5 billion, you mean.

Re:I'm Not Going to Lie (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 5 years ago | (#28541467)

As a native NYian are taxes here are on of the highest in the nation. So imagine how we feel when we pay high state taxes then ontop of that 30%+ to the feds.

Re:I'm Not Going to Lie (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 5 years ago | (#28541515)

As a resident of Texas I agree that NO federal money should be spent on a state issues. However, Texas is a DONOR state meaning it gives more revenue than it takes from the Federal Government.. Plus do not forget we have a lot of "undocumented" workers that pass through our state and federal mandated to provide them health care.

Another point: what you are looking at is a tiny fraction of the money spend by the Fed and where it gets distributed. This spending website is like scrutinizing an iceberg by placing one ice crystal under a microscope.

Re:I'm Not Going to Lie (1)

GSPride (763993) | about 5 years ago | (#28542361)

Federal aid per $1.00 of tax collected (2005)

New York State - $0.79
Texas - $0.94
Pennsylvania - $1.07
Minnesota - $0.72

Jeebus (1)

RMH101 (636144) | about 5 years ago | (#28540897)

..and I've been putting off filling in *my* Project Status Reports...

VUE-IT (3, Informative)

highwind81 (862971) | about 5 years ago | (#28540899)

If you don't like flash here's another view of the Federal IT Budget:
http://www.whitehouse.gov/omb/egov/vue-it/index.html [whitehouse.gov]
I'm not sure if it's the same data but it let you have the raw data too.

Here is how fare and competive bidding works. (3, Insightful)

jellomizer (103300) | about 5 years ago | (#28540937)

It looks good on paper. However this is what happens.

First lets stop and realize there is a deal of stress and frustration to have to deal with different people all the time (contractors) and it is generally easier and safer to deal with the same people (you know the level you can trust them and you know their quality of their work etc... All in all makes it easier to manage them).
That said IT managers of government agencies really don't want to put stuff out to bid. As it is a lot of work for them, they have to battle with the Union first to make a case for their need (normally with all their staff saying I don't want to do this) for hiring outsiders to do the work. Then you need to make a full spec and then put it out to bid get the best bid and then when the people start they will start out slower because they don't know your work. (Turnover cost is about 150% more then using the same people)

So what happens? Well they make 1 or 2 actual completive bids for some small projects and see if they like the people. Once they know them and like them and get to know their skill sets for the next larger project they word the bid to match that persons skill sets so the person who meets the requirements is the person they look for. That is why if you look at these bids that come out there is a lot of very odd requirement say for a Web project asking for 13 years of Cobol Experience or Linux experience for making a Windows app. Then they used that canned bid over and over again to keep them there.

Why use contractors at all? Because the Union allows the people to say no to any job they don't want to do. And a lot of jobs are based on Bad Ideas which are very political, but really doomed to failure. So you get the contractor to do it. If it fails then it is the evil contractors fault. But you hire him again because you really know the project was doomed anyways. The contractor is fine to be the bad guy if you keep hiring him again.

Re:Here is how fare and competive bidding works. (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 5 years ago | (#28541787)

It takes up to 6 times more energy to do business with a stranger vs. someone you already know. Shift 2: Overdrive @TweetNIrvana

A good first step towards accountability (4, Interesting)

Anonymous Coward | about 5 years ago | (#28540947)

This is a good first step towards accountability.

Personally, I'd like to vote on the overall budget expenditures for the big 20 departments. We shouldn't be surprised when departments and programs we love don't get much funding while others we dislike very much do. Most citizens don't have any valid idea how much money goes into any program. Most think we spend 50% on the military and 10% on NASA. Those numbers were significantly lower a few years ago (22%/0.5%). The thing that bothers me most is Social Security is like 55% of the total budget. That's just crazy. Wild swings in spending shouldn't be allowed even if we vote. No more than a 5% change in any department per year, so they can smoothly transition to the next annual budget amounts up or down.

We need to carefully monitor http://it.usaspending.gov/?q=content/investments-rated-agency [usaspending.gov] until all of them are reporting. Only a few (less than 5) out of 30+ departments are currently reporting.

Perhaps I'm crazy.

Re:A good first step towards accountability (1)

ratnerstar (609443) | about 5 years ago | (#28541649)

If by "like 55% of the total budget" you mean "21% of the total budget [cbpp.org] ," then you're correct.

Re:A good first step towards accountability (1)

cenc (1310167) | about 5 years ago | (#28541907)

I say we just eliminate congress, the president, and the supreme court and just vote directly online through U-tube. Just think of the tax savings we could get by going to a full virtual government. We could all collectively push the big red button to nuke North Korea.

Re:A good first step towards accountability (1)

ducomputergeek (595742) | about 5 years ago | (#28542119)

I hear people say how we should spend more on social services and cut the military and NASA without really knowing any of the numbers. They see 15B for Nasa and think that 15B is a really big number, yet has percentage of overall spending or even vs entitlement spending, it's a drop in the bucket. Hell, unless I read the numbers wrong (I've not had my morning coffee yet) the New York Health care system got almost as much money as NASA's entire budget.

Last time I checked, which was a year or two ago, entitlement spending is roughly half the US budget and twice what we spend on the military.

Sense of humor... (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 5 years ago | (#28541401)

I started reading this thread hoping to see some funny posts about Govt spending... But once again I'm made aware of the fact that people involved in Govt work seem to be lacking a sense of humor.

An easy way to cut costs (1)

MikeRT (947531) | about 5 years ago | (#28541837)

Make a federal job board where independent contractors can easily submit quick bids where they will work directly under a government boss. The big IT contractors would hate that, but there is no reason why most IT projects need to have a huge contractor support apparatus, instead of having a highly paid government program manager directly control the contractors. 1099s are also a lot cheaper when the government can hire them directly. Even if they have to pay say... $150/hr for a senior developer, that's usually a lot less than a big contractor firm with all of its overhead costs would charge the government.

Everyone's afraid of "fraud, waste and abuse" if the bid process isn't some hyper-complicated kabuki, but the federal government actually wastes more money going through this process. It loses it by losing an opportunity to directly negotiate with smaller companies and independent contractors, and it loses it based on having to have more employees to ensure compliance. The truth is, if the federal government had the flexibility to easily hire 1099s without much oversight, as long as they're reasonably competent, it'll save money no matter what over hiring companies like Lockheed, Boeing and Northrop.

Re:An easy way to cut costs (1)

kaiser423 (828989) | about 5 years ago | (#28542369)

You really think that we can hire a bunch of independent 1099's to build the next F-35 or KC-X tanker?!?

Consider my mind blown. To compete on either of those contract's you have to have a ton of internal corporate knowledge, and have a proven track record. I like your idea for pushing out small projects, but then to jump straight to that therefore meaning that Boeing et al would lose a bunch of contracts is just mind-boggling. Lots of government programs have Small Business set-asides in their contracts that keeps anyone but indepenedent and small companies from building.

But I think that the biggest thing is that the government does need to hire/train more competent, technical program managers. There is no reason why the government can't be the integrators, or the ones driving the bus. Right now it's just the government writing the check with little to no real direction; they can ask, but contractors often don't budge.

You had a mind to blow? (1)

MikeRT (947531) | about 5 years ago | (#28542911)

You really think that we can hire a bunch of independent 1099's to build the next F-35 or KC-X tanker?!?

Hey smart guy... when were those considered "IT spending?"

Re:An easy way to cut costs (1)

nospam007 (722110) | about 5 years ago | (#28542499)

instead of having a highly paid government program manager directly control the contractors.

I see the newspaper quotes already:

"Highly paid government program manager in bed with hookers and contractors!"

campaign funds (1)

codepunk (167897) | about 5 years ago | (#28543097)

But where would the campaign funds come from then? A 1099 is not going to donate millions of dollars to political campaigns every year.

Stargate? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 5 years ago | (#28543609)

I went poking around, and almost immediately found, marked in red for "Significant Concerns", the following project:

CHEYENNE MOUNTAIN COMPLEX/TACTICAL WARNING - ATTACK ASSESSMENT [usaspending.gov]

great, typical bureaucratic solution to visibility (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 5 years ago | (#28544781)

Classic gov't/academic website: overload the customer with documentation and stats (for each dept, each program, etc...)

.

Yes, this site is great for watchdog groups that can do research, but this data has been available since the 80's and the reason people 'never cared about accountability' is because the data was never compiled. This website shows a 'slick' web2.0 presentation, but the data is still not compiled--I think the IRS booklets we get for tax day have better information (i.e. compiled data) where one can say: 'we're wasting money' or 'my money is well spent'. This website is pushing us to the typical Web2.0 self-service mentality such that gov't becomes less accountable as the data is presented (not compiled) and YOU need to do the analysis/searching/data mining. And of course, the gov't wonks continue to get their high salaries, with less work and no questions asked...

And of course, sure there's lots of data, but is anything actionable? That's the most valuable thing gov't IT can do for its citizens, empower them:i.e. can't you take action on this site (submit a comment, conduct a poll, etc...)? Nope.... I waiting for the people to get upset at gov't spending and the response will be: "well the data is posted, not our fault you didn't track it for so long.".

When it comes to gov't spending, they are ultimately accountable (by our vote), but this approach bring more democracy into the game and now the blame is shared.

Flash, great (1)

ThatsNotPudding (1045640) | about 5 years ago | (#28545485)

Good to know even the 'new bosses' are in the pocket of proprietary software monopolies.

3 cheers for transparency (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 5 years ago | (#28556219)

This is great! Finally we get to see all of the smiths that get federal dollars. (Did anyone notice the negitive amounts by various smiths? WTF?)

I can't do anything directly with the info but it's extremely refreshing to see that it's here available for all to see.

An actual example (1)

caution live frogs (1196367) | about 5 years ago | (#28556719)

Given that I work for the government, and have to deal with the IT spending regulations, I thought you all might like an actual example of how this works.

Scenario: The keyboard I am using broke. I want a new keyboard. Our tech checks our budget and finds we have some IT money. (Any IT spending has to be earmarked as such, when requesting grant money to begin with; if we have no IT money we can't buy anything computer related, no matter how much actual cash we have left to spend total.)

I pick the keyboard I want (Apple wired keyboard, with number pad - because according to our CIO Bluetooth is a "wireless device" and thus can't be allowed in the building for fear someone will steal my precious data).

Our tech submits a request for purchase. The minions in the purchasing department check the request, check our budget, and then if everything is kosher they submit it for bids using a government ordering website.

Approved companies make bids based on the equipment requested. "Approved" means any company vetted by the government to be a company that does not support or have dealings with enemies of the US, and companies that are minority-owned or woman-owned or qualify for some other feel-good-PC affirmative-action equal-opportunity category-owned are preferred. If an approved company exists which can make the bid, great. We collect bids. If there is no such company (for example, a supplier exists but is not yet in the approved list) we have more paperwork to get the supplier checked out and added to the list of potential approved companies prior to obtaining bids.

The lowest bid is generally the one accepted. When this happens, the order is placed. Purchasing arranges payment, the supplier arranges delivery, and in only a short matter of about a month my new keyboard arrives. The paperwork in the end, on our part, was seven or eight sheets of paper including the order forms, the copies of the bids, the budget justifications, etc. (Good thing the Paperwork Reduction Act was implemented, I'd hate to see how bad it was before that!)

Effectively, what just happened is that I wanted an Apple keyboard, so the federal government paid a third party to place an order with Apple to ship the keyboard to me. The packing slip even had the Apple Store order number included. Same thing happens when we want a Dell or an HP computer - a third party places the order with Dell or HP, we can't simply call up Apple or Dell or HP and make the order ourselves, because if we did that, the third-party supplier wouldn't be able to take a cut of the costs.

Because of this, we quite often have problems when we want specific items, such as customizing computers to meet specific needs. Or, in my case, desiring a keyboard with a number pad. I am now the proud owner of a government-purchased Apple keyboard, sans number pad, thanks to the federal IT purchasing process. Forget about returning it - that would take even more paperwork than the ordering did.

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