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6 IT Projects, $8 Billion Over Budget At Dept. of Defense

Soulskill posted about a year and a half ago | from the par-for-the-course dept.

Government 113

McGruber writes "The Federal Times has the stunning (but not surprising) news that a new audit found six Defense Department modernization projects to be a combined $8 billion — or 110 percent — over budget. The projects are also suffering from years-long schedule delays. In 1998, work began on the Army's Logistics Modernization Program (LMP). In April 2010, the General Accounting Office issued a report titled 'Actions Needed to Improve Implementation of the Army Logistics Modernization Program' about the status of LMP. LMP is now scheduled to be fully deployed in September 2016, 12 years later than originally scheduled, and 18 years after development first began! (Development of the oft-maligned Duke Nukem Forever only took 15 years.)"

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113 comments

All of that to develop some ERP systems (2)

starworks5 (139327) | about a year and a half ago | (#40800021)

Man someone should have told me that a long time ago, 8 billion is nothing to sneeze at.

Re:All of that to develop some ERP systems (2)

starworks5 (139327) | about a year and a half ago | (#40800037)

I guess it take alot of work considering computers aren't very good at creative bookkeeping.

Re:All of that to develop some ERP systems (3, Funny)

vivian (156520) | about a year and a half ago | (#40800125)

Call me a cynic, but I think everyone wised up to the fact that they weren't really buying solid gold toilet seats, so they had to find something else in the budget to fund all that black ops stuff...

Re:All of that to develop some ERP systems (0, Troll)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#40800595)

Holy shit black women are ugly. I mean there's a couple semihot ones but most of them are ugly as fuck.

If it isn't them topping the obesity stats or their frizzy nappy just-stuck-my-finger-in-the-light-socket hair, it's their simian faces and squashed noses. Worst of all is there severe militaristic temperament most of em have. Even that's not as bad as the ghetto bullshit no man should ever put up with.

NOTE TO ALL WOMEN: no man wants to raise some other man's bastard kids. Blacks with all their broken families especially don't seem to understand that. They don't realize that growin' up not knowing who your daddy is, well that shit's not normal. It means daddy and mommy both fucked up.

Re:All of that to develop some ERP systems (4, Insightful)

JDG1980 (2438906) | about a year and a half ago | (#40801383)

Call me a cynic, but I think everyone wised up to the fact that they weren't really buying solid gold toilet seats, so they had to find something else in the budget to fund all that black ops stuff...

The toilet seat thing was blown way out of proportion. It was a custom-molded plastic assembly for military aircraft use [yarchive.net], and as most people here know, when you do injection molding, the initial tooling costs are very high. High setup costs + low volume = seemingly outrageous per-unit price. It's not as if they were paying $700 for the same type of toilet seat you can buy at the local Home Depot.

Re:All of that to develop some ERP systems (3, Informative)

Octorian (14086) | about a year and a half ago | (#40801801)

Even if the specific example may have been blown way out of proportion, I actually see a lot of the plainly-worded outrage as a complete misunderstanding of how the whole DoD acquisition process [dau.mil] actually works.

To this end, I once wrote up a notional piece on The Mythical $800 Hammer [blogspot.com]. :-)

Re:All of that to develop some ERP systems (2)

Sulphur (1548251) | about a year and a half ago | (#40800767)

I guess it take alot of work considering computers aren't very good at creative bookkeeping.

Maybe a GUI would stir the creative juices.

Re:All of that to develop some ERP systems (1)

Trepidity (597) | about a year and a half ago | (#40800361)

Sadly, that's how bespoke enterprise development goes in the private sector, too. Fortune 500 companies routinely pay huge amounts for this kind of stuff.

Re:All of that to develop some ERP systems (1)

dbIII (701233) | about a year and a half ago | (#40800753)

That's how the company getting paid for it becomes a Fortune 500 company in the first place. What's that bunch of losers that ran over budget but never delivered for Police and FBI databases? The name escapes me, but they are in that 500 and have nothing but a record of being a failing leech on the taxpayer to get it.

Re:All of that to develop some ERP systems (1)

Salgak1 (20136) | about a year and a half ago | (#40803805)

That would be SAIC [saic.com], and the Virtual Case File program [ieee.org]. After that debacle, caused by evolving requirements AFTER contract award and a willingness to do whatever the customer asked for, as long as they paid for it, the final delivery was what you would expect, a steaming crock of bugs and crap.

SAIC used to pretty much OWN the FBI's data center contracts. They are pretty much gone now, and Lockheed-Martin now runs the show out at Clarksburg, WV. . .

Re:All of that to develop some ERP systems (1)

PolygamousRanchKid (1290638) | about a year and a half ago | (#40800413)

SAP was around 18 years ago, but not well-known. And plus, being a German company, it probably would not have been the choice then for a US Defense Department project. Too many senators and congressmen would have howled about so much money being spent abroad, and not in their states and congressional districts.

Now, SAP is well-known . . . but I don`t think that many people really know what it actually does.

Re:All of that to develop some ERP systems (5, Funny)

mtempsch (524313) | about a year and a half ago | (#40800479)

SAP is well-known . . . but I don`t think that many people really know what it actually does.

Sucks the money out of any organization trying to implement it?

Use of SAP (1)

rwade (131726) | about a year and a half ago | (#40802059)

SAP was around 18 years ago, but not well-known. And plus, being a German company, it probably would not have been the choice then for a US Defense Department project.

Well, so much for that. From the Navy's "About Navy ERP" page: [navy.mil]

The Navy ERP Program uses a product from SAP Corporation, which allows the Navy to unify, standardize, and streamline all its business activities into one completely integrated system.

FEDERAL PRISON (4, Insightful)

Concern (819622) | about a year and a half ago | (#40800619)

Come on people. Say it with me.

Federal. Prison.

FEDERAL. PRISON.

Are we so inured to this that we can't even speak the words, let alone call our congresspeople? Will we not even push people to ask whether the next president will be calling for the prosecution and imprisonment of the people responsible for creating a billion dollar, 18 year "army logistics" software development project?

Don't give me that "mistaking malice for incompetence" bullshit. That's exactly what's wrong with this country. Just because it's computers, don't tell me you can't tell a $100 toilet seat when you see one. A couple years late may be incompetence, but you should have the FBI given all necessary clearances and set them crawling all over it. At 8 years into a 4 year project, you fire the buy-side project managers and cancel the project, whether you uncovered fraud or not. Fail to maintain even these basic standards, and no estimate in time or money is ever real, and every contract becomes open season for treasury looters. Oh wait, like it is today.

There is no way on earth or heaven that a logistics system can cost this much or take this long to build. And I would say those so corrupt or negligent as the ones running implementation at the vendor or running procurement within the military should be behind bars. This is not a joke, people - this is keeping American troops in a decaying and ancient logistics system so that some weasel can steal your tax money.

We could all start the backlash right here, today.

Re:FEDERAL PRISON (2)

penix1 (722987) | about a year and a half ago | (#40800949)

Government procurement is one of the most frustrating processes known to man. This is true of both federal and state level purchasing divisions. That government contractors take advantage of the deep pockets shouldn't surprise anyone. The fault lies on the contract writer for overruns and timeline delays. It means the contract wasn't specific enough or realistic enough. It also means the budget wasn't properly vetted and that benefit cost analysis either wasn't done or was done improperly. Lastly, it means that the oversight was totally missing in the project. Having worked with FEMA in the past and now with the State, I can tell you that had one of my projects gone over budget or over the performance period or outside of the scope of work that project would have been shut down with the federal government sending a collection notice for the recapture of funds. That is what is needed here.

Re:FEDERAL PRISON (3, Insightful)

Shavano (2541114) | about a year and a half ago | (#40801153)

I don't think you understand how defense programs typically go so wildly over budget and schedule. Project oversight is passed from person to person every two years or less. Each officer in charge spends the first six months or more learning what the project is, often from the contractors themselves. That's bad enough. But multi year tech development contracts suffer from continual scope creep as the state of the art advances on parallel to the project under development

Re:FEDERAL PRISON (4, Insightful)

chill (34294) | about a year and a half ago | (#40801291)

You skipped an important step.

Insert after sentence 4:

"After they've learned what the project is, they insist it is being done wrong and must be done THEIR way, essentially setting the project back to square one."

Ignorance is bliss (1)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#40801421)

Yes, but ... that is a response to the miserable failure that the project already is. The fundamental problem, is "If there's one thing every junior consultant needs to have injected into their head with a heavy duty 2500 RPM DeWalt Drill, it's this: Customers Don't Know What They Want. Stop Expecting Customers to Know What They Want. It's just never going to happen. Get over it." --Joel Spolsky [joelonsoftware.com].

The customers, in the DOD's case, are combat leaders, not program managers. They don't know what they want. They know what they don't like about what they have, and they think they want whatever vendor presentation is given to them. Then, add 5 layers of committee in the JCIDS process, and it can never work.

The system is fucked, but not substantially worse than in the rest of industry for large software projects.

Re:FEDERAL PRISON (1)

Shavano (2541114) | about a year and a half ago | (#40801545)

Thus causing the scope creep I mentioned. But there's also the undesirable effect that during that 6 months or more that they are getting up to speed on what the project is and its current status, the project is running without effective government oversight, so it might make no progress or develop in directions that don't meet the government's goals.

ALL government projects including military ones should be run by civilian project managers and every effort should be made to have personnel continuity start-to-finish. In fact, there should be a technical oversight manager and a separate budget manager. One is in charge of making sure all the technical goals are met in a timely fashion and the other is in charge of making sure that they don't exceed their budget. Neither should have authority to change the constraints without oversight somebody more senior and after review of whether the technical changes are really needed and the money is really worth it.

Re:FEDERAL PRISON (1)

Bill Dog (726542) | about a year and a half ago | (#40803777)

The ones I've seen have been directly run by govt. civilian program managers, with their military oversight person changing frequently as mentioned. These projects make slow and wasteful progress because the govie program mgrs seem to think it's a primary part of their job to jerk the contracting organizations around; make them suffer a little to make up for how good a thing they have going, it seems. So constant requirements churn and pressure to keep up, and evidently to justify your place on the contract.

And yet no different than in any other large organization, where you end up not working towards the org's goals per se, but to keep your immediate boss happy while s/he ego-trips and haphazardly goes from vision to vision of how the product should be. Then as long as their boss doesn't really know, or care (like if it's only a temporary assignment), dysfunction is permitted. In short, I think large orgs could use a team of roving, program-independent auditors that go around and visit ongoing projects and keep the middle mgrs from going off on their own.

Re:FEDERAL PRISON (2)

flappinbooger (574405) | about a year and a half ago | (#40801491)

No, there's no way it should or could cost that much or take that long. It's absolutely ridiculous.

Chances are, it was originally designed to run in a DOS window on a Pentium II MMX with 128 megs of ram or some such nonsense. Army Logistics Upgrade. That's got quagmire written all over it!

Someone got a SCHWEEEEET deal and now they're bummed out they just got busted.

I bet this is one of those things where once a month they fax in some kind of status report that never gets read and it's really just one guy sipping an umbrella drink on some beach in the Bahamas somewhere, checking his bank account once an hour just because he can't believe it's real.

Re:All of that to develop some ERP systems (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#40801079)

Queue the tea party demanding cuts to the military over this wasteful spending. Of course Head Start costs US tax payers the same (7.9 billion) so maybe we'll just cut educating our children instead.

Re:All of that to develop some ERP systems (2)

Octorian (14086) | about a year and a half ago | (#40801717)

I wish they would. The problem with many folks on their side of the political isle, is that all gov't spending is bad except for the spending they actually like. DoD spending is spending they like, and somehow exempt from all their arguments about wasteful gov't spending "Because its in the constitution!"

Seriously, anyone who thinks DoD spending isn't wasteful gov't spending either:
1) Is blissfully ignorant of how the whole industry operates
2) Works in the industry, and is thus self-serving

(And for some reason, many on the left are as blissfully ignorant as those on the right, they just have a different bias so they make opposing arguments.)

Re:All of that to develop some ERP systems (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#40803881)

all gov't spending is bad except for the spending that is actually constitutional

FTFY. It's not about what we like. I would like the government to deport everyone on the political left. It's about what we think is proper. We know that anything government does is a clusterfuck. But it does have a few important roles that shouldn't be decentralized or left to the private sector. Just very few.

Re:All of that to develop some ERP systems (2)

penix1 (722987) | about a year and a half ago | (#40805179)

Actually, just about every job the government does is something the private sector can't or won't do. Everything from building roads and bridges to educating our kids. You bitch about your taxes but in reality if you had to pay private sector prices for those items you would really be bitching. Imagine everyone having to pay tuition for their kids education, paying tolls on every street, paying for someone to test your food to make sure it was safe. You get the picture.

110% (5, Funny)

chromas (1085949) | about a year and a half ago | (#40800119)

It's nice to see someone in our government giving 110%.

Re:110% (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#40800233)

That would be the taxpayer doing the giving.

Re:110% (1)

gl4ss (559668) | about a year and a half ago | (#40800351)

isn't it more like giving 300% instead of 100%?

anyhow.. duke nukem only took 15 years because they practically threw everything out, changed developer and generally started over while having an actual deadline.

Re:110% (3, Insightful)

12345Doug (706366) | about a year and a half ago | (#40800743)

And what do you think happened here? It's maddening to work some of these long term implementation projects as government support staff is routinely changed causing delays in key decisions. Then requirements get changed along with the personnel changes. Duke Nukem might be a very apt description of what happened on these large projects. In addition to trying to do REALLY hard things with technology that just isn't quite there yet at on a scale most don't really understand.

Re:110% (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#40800993)

Well, given that the government is routinely spending more than 100% of its revenue, it kind of follows.

Re:110% (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#40801567)

Yeah. Too bad it is us, the taxpayer! :rolleyes:

Obligatory (4, Informative)

gaelfx (1111115) | about a year and a half ago | (#40800131)

First rule in government spending: Why build one when you can have none for twice the price?

Re:Obligatory (3, Insightful)

Sulphur (1548251) | about a year and a half ago | (#40800785)

First rule in government spending: Why build one when you can have none for twice the price?

If you don't spend the money, then that much is deducted from your next budget.

Almost all project exceed their budget because ... (4, Insightful)

prasadsurve (665770) | about a year and a half ago | (#40800147)

if you specify the actual cost during the planning phase, then they wouldn't be started in the first place. So people make best case estimates and then reality strikes, the actual cost exceed the allocated budget.

Call me crazy but... (4, Insightful)

jtownatpunk.net (245670) | about a year and a half ago | (#40800157)

...it looks like they originally expected to take 6 years to roll out their plan. Even if they'd been on schedule, by the time everything was in place, it would have been obsolete.

Re:Call me crazy but... (4, Insightful)

Trepidity (597) | about a year and a half ago | (#40800373)

Six is a bit long, but not really outside the norm compared to how a typical large company would do it. One place I've worked, it took three years to fully roll out our Microsoft Exchange transition. And that's just desktop-oriented software for just regular employee usage. IT projects relating to anything more complex or business-critical could take more years. There are still mainframes operating at some places, and decade-long projects to replace them that haven't finished.

Re:Call me crazy but... (2, Interesting)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#40800481)

Not surprised...in the early 90's I was with a small computer biz and we won a small contract to build 50 PCs for the navy specced out to run off the shelf CAD software. We built them, shipped them and the navy promptly stuck them in a warehouse for a year. When they finally pulled them out the software no longer preformed well on the PCs and every one was shipped back to be upgraded to run the newer version of the software. Shame we were to small a companyt to really rape the government for big bucks.

Re:Call me crazy but... (2)

dropzonetoe (1167883) | about a year and a half ago | (#40800761)

I joined the Army in 03 just in time for Emilpo to be released. I was the pivot class(42F) not trained on the old and not having any training on the new but we had AIT for just as long for no reason. In 05 I started hearing about its replacement coming down the line and when I finally left in 09 it was still "just going to be released soon"

And this is different from other DOD projects how? (5, Insightful)

DesScorp (410532) | about a year and a half ago | (#40800167)

Pretty much everything the Pentagon does is over budget, behind schedule, and budget-wise, generally a spawn of wishful thinking. The "cheap" Littoral Combat Ships were sold to Congress as sub-$250 million craft. They're currently just under $700 million apiece. The "cheap" F-35 was promised to be no more than $60 million a copy or so. They're now just under $200 million a copy, flyaway (more expensive than the F-22 they were supposed to compliment). The new Ford class carriers... an evolutionary development of the current Nimitz class.... will now cost 2 1/2 times as much as the last Nimitz that was launched just a few years back.

Why should DOD software be any different than DOD hardware when it comes to wishful thinking from the brass?

Re:And this is different from other DOD projects h (3, Funny)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#40800327)

Apparently the logistics of killing dirty little foreigners is quite complicated.

Re:And this is different from other DOD projects h (2)

dbIII (701233) | about a year and a half ago | (#40800789)

There's engineering solutions and military solutions.
Engineering solutions have known goals (don't laugh, I'm writing about an ideal situation here).
Military solutions cover contingencies which may shift over time. They are also highly vunerable to political whim, up to and including outright bribery.

Re:And this is different from other DOD projects h (1)

drinkypoo (153816) | about a year and a half ago | (#40801109)

Pretty much everything the Pentagon does is over budget, behind schedule, and budget-wise, generally a spawn of wishful thinking

And by "wishful thinking" you mean the wish that a whole bunch of pork will land in a barrel somewhere, right?

Re:And this is different from other DOD projects h (1)

DesScorp (410532) | about a year and a half ago | (#40803419)

Pretty much everything the Pentagon does is over budget, behind schedule, and budget-wise, generally a spawn of wishful thinking

And by "wishful thinking" you mean the wish that a whole bunch of pork will land in a barrel somewhere, right?

Wish? More like planned that way. The Pentagon knows how to play the game: lowball your estimate for a weapon system you're selling as critical to national security, get the process flowing to as many Congressional districts as possible (one factor that raises costs, in fact) in order to gather maximum support, and then when production actually starts, you know that Congress won't have the courage to cancel the program.

I'm very hawkish, but over the years, I've also become very, very cynical about how we buy weapons. This is one of the reasons that, despite my support for free trade in civilian goods, I think perhaps we should go back to a mostly-nationalized weapons building regime. The Navy owns a lot of shipyards, the Air Force a lot of aircraft plants, and the army some armories (and in the past, even armor factories). But they no longer design and build ships, planes, and guns on their own. It's totally contractor driven now, and anyone that studies the issue objectively has to admit that weapons procurement (domestically) is in no way any kind of free market... it just has the appearance of one. The whole process is very corrupt (by design). Maybe we'd be better off going back to designing and building our own ships and aircraft (the Navy especially was into doing this... they even had their own aircraft factory, and they found that it kept costs down in the 20's and 30's as it kept 3rd party contractors honest).

This is coming from a right winger, folks. Entitlements are our biggest budget problem, and a corrupting influence on it's own, but we can not continue to ignore the fiasco that is our arms procurement process and military budget either. No nation in the world can afford $15 billion dollar aircraft carriers and $200+ million dollar fighter planes in any useful quantity. And not only are we engaging in corruption, we're borrowing 40 cents on the dollar to do it.

Re:And this is different from other DOD projects h (1)

joe_frisch (1366229) | about a year and a half ago | (#40802363)

In a lot of ways we have stacked the deck against the government doing successful projects.

The public gets upset when government workers are highly paid or get nice perks (see the recent GSA Las Vegas conference fiasco), so it is not easy for them to attract top talent.

The public wants more oversight of government projects than is typical for industry. This results in non-standard accounting practices that require custom management software. The accounting requirements can also significantly distort engineering efforts - it is difficult to pay for R&D the benefits multiple programs due to the difficult of knowing what account to charge.

Project cycles are so long that top managers have every incentive to underestimate budgets. If there is a project up for grabs, it goes to the organization that *claims* it can do it most cheaply. If 10 years down the road the project is over budget, the original manager is likely long gone to another project, and probably doesn't even receive any blame for the overruns - that goes to the poor SOB who took over the project without realizing what shape it was actually in.

Government funding is driven by the winds of politics. Projects are created, then delayed, then restarted, then scope changes, the canceled - then revived. Engineering teams are formed and disbanded, then need to be re-formed.

In the end I agree that government projects are inefficient, but I think a lot of the inefficiency comes from misguided attempts by the public to force more efficiency. I don't believe that regulations can make poor engineers into good engineers. If you want good engineers you need to make your jobs more attractive than the jobs offered by the competition.

Re:And this is different from other DOD projects h (1)

Tablizer (95088) | about a year and a half ago | (#40803993)

It's just like the US economy: Bush spent away our rainy-day margin to kiss up to various constituents (military, elderly, refund checks). Now he's out of office and the mess is somebody else's.

Re:And this is different from other DOD projects h (1)

k6mfw (1182893) | about a year and a half ago | (#40803305)

reminds me of SpaceX Dragon as compared to LM Orion (ok, bad comparison in many ways), where Dragon was developed along with a launch vehicle and flown twice for about $1 billion (or of that magnitude). Orion is costing billions and billions... not sure when it will ever be flown. What is this difference? An effective cost control is when the money comes out of your own pocket. Unlike the other which is not.

110% as in just over twice as much? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#40800177)

That is normal for any successful (lower) government project.

Who was on the other side of the table? (5, Insightful)

Required Snark (1702878) | about a year and a half ago | (#40800207)

In my brief stint in the Military/Industrial complex, I noticed that there were always uniformed personal on the government side of the table, and retired military people on the "civilian" side of the table. When officers retire, they leave and go to the private sector, where they end up managing projects for the military.

I expect that the contractors were staffed with lots of "project planners" and "requirements specialists" who went straight from the service to work on these projects. And you can be sure that the ex-military are extremely unlikely to buck the system and stand up to uniformed types. And those in uniform know that they can climb on the retirement gravy train as long as they don't make life too hard for the contractors who they expect to work for when they get out.

It's a recipe for disaster. Nobody is going to make waves, because they are all too busy looking out for their common interest. It's another example of the endemic corruption that is steadily eroding the fundamentals of US society.

Of course this is small change compared to what goes on in the financial sector...

Re:Who was on the other side of the table? (1)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#40800305)

I recently read the pentagon wars. the movie has got nothing on the book, and both show up the enormous shenanigans that go on at the pentagon, procurement wise.

if you can find it (no easy task, i had to go to the British library to read it, as it costs 80 pounds) its a deeply interesting insight.

Re:Who was on the other side of the table? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#40800549)

I keep reading uniformed as uninformed...

Re:Who was on the other side of the table? (1)

khallow (566160) | about a year and a half ago | (#40800749)

Of course this is small change compared to what goes on in the financial sector...

I'd have to disagree. The financial giveaways only every few years when some socialization of risk needs to go down. This sort of thing happens every year to IMHO the tune of hundreds of billions per year.

Re:Who was on the other side of the table? (1)

ErikZ (55491) | about a year and a half ago | (#40800981)

Wow, that gravy train sounds amazing!

So, how many officers leave the military each year, and how many "Military/Industrial complex" jobs are for them?

Just curious.

My Experience (1)

geoffrobinson (109879) | about a year and a half ago | (#40801099)

Granted, just anecdotal.

Generally, the contractor will start looking and like acting the customer, especially if you only have one customer.

Also, technical projects are hard. Requirements can change by a lot. And in some segments of the military government officials are only in their positions 2-3 years, so they don't get the level of expertise they need.

In Japanese it is called "Amakudari" (5, Informative)

Idou (572394) | about a year and a half ago | (#40801387)

Amakudari [wikipedia.org]. And it is a recipe for disaster in every industry that it occurs in. . .

Re:Who was on the other side of the table? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#40801593)

The problem is the system, not who's on which side of the table. Plenty of uniformed and civilian working level people "buck the system". Unfortunately they learn pretty quickly that the higher up you go the more interested you are in POM issue sheets, and less interested in what's actually going on. We've become so worried about the $500 hammer that we put $400 of bureaucracy behind each hammer we buy. Most of it is Congressionally mandated and not an option for the services. Leaders have minimal freedom to actually do what they want and buy things that make sense. More than once I have seen inherently obvious decisions get derailed by an influential congressman (why are you doing that in his district and not mine, when I know I wrote some obscure legislation that makes my district the preferred location). Contractors are better at playing this game than the internal government guys.

Now as for ERP (Navy SAP) specifically, the Navy bought the same bill of goods that a lot of big companies did. SAP told leadership that it would do everything, it was off the shelf, and would be cheaper/better and they would have insight into all. Of course that was BS, and now we have to live with it.

Half insightful (1)

N8F8 (4562) | about a year and a half ago | (#40803427)

You described a situation where you have people who understand the customer identifying requirements and planning. Makes a lot of sense since an outsider would take many years to understand customer needs. I think the real part is the second part of your statement "ex-military are extremely unlikely to buck the system and stand up to uniformed types" - the problem has nothing to do with uniform, prior service are LESS likely to be impressed with that, what you really have is the age-old problem of not wanting to say no to the customer.

Leet! (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#40800271)

LMP is now scheduled to be fully deployed in September 2016, 12 years later than originally scheduled, and 18 years after development first began! (Development of the oft-maligned Duke Nukem Forever only took 15 years.)

Hey, they can still be ready before Elite IV [wikipedia.org].

Oracle and Java for the overtime billing! (-1)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#40800379)

Please tell me again why Java and C++ are so much better than COBOL and Pascal.

Please tell me again how an diverse collection of eager kids can replace a handful of bitter old white men and do it so much better, faster and cheaper.

Re:Oracle and Java for the overtime billing! (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#40800519)

Please tell me again why Java and C++ are so much better than COBOL and Pascal.

Please tell me again how an diverse collection of eager kids can replace a handful of bitter old white men and do it so much better, faster and cheaper.

I was with you in your first sentence.

You're second sentence however is racist & ageist (and perhaps sexist) drivel.

Flavor of the week. (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#40800423)

C, C++, PERL, PHP, Ruby...xyzzy
Refactoring to another language is expensive!

This is just criminal... (1)

Simulant (528590) | about a year and a half ago | (#40800453)

...both on the DOD side and on contractor side. But god forbid we cut their budget.

typical for a socialist society (2, Insightful)

Mister Liberty (769145) | about a year and a half ago | (#40800457)

Government subsidizing private corporations, overruns,
non-transparency, corruption. And look at the straight
faces meanwhile. What a joke.

Re:typical for a socialist society (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#40801951)

actually, this is the way the free market is supposed to work. Or are you telling me that republicans lie? I mean, Reagan wasn't no socialist (trickle "down" wasn't corporate welfare and if you say it is i'll deny it up and down), and the current republicans have no desire to cut funding to the military industrial complex.

fuckin' demoRATS ruining everything.

Re:typical for a socialist society (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#40805027)

You mean Socialize the risk and privatize the profit!"

Corruption and graft (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#40800505)

... the best that money can buy.

what does "overbudget" mean? (5, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#40800513)

When government work used to be done by government, it could have gone over budget: you have to buy more raw materials or pay more people to work more hours.

But the whole point in outsourcing is that you pay a fixed amount to third parties to complete a specific job, and they take over the responsibility for making a profit (or, at worst, breaking even).

OK, I lie. The whole point in outsourcing is to give treasury money to your friends, and erode the state in favour of scrounging corporations.

Re:what does "overbudget" mean? (2)

JDG1980 (2438906) | about a year and a half ago | (#40801429)

But the whole point in outsourcing is that you pay a fixed amount to third parties to complete a specific job, and they take over the responsibility for making a profit (or, at worst, breaking even).

That's true if the job remains the same. But it seldom does. A tried-and-true method is to give a lowball amount for the basic contract, but charge out the ass for change requests. (And there will always be change requests.) This is true whether the contractee is a private company or the federal government.

lowest bidder (2)

token_username (1415329) | about a year and a half ago | (#40800539)

So wait a minute...if you're always forced to go with the lowest bidder this can happen? I would have thought the lowest bidder would have also been the most reliable and skilled. Who would have known?

Re:lowest bidder (1)

chill (34294) | about a year and a half ago | (#40801281)

Common misconception. You are *not* required to go with the lowest bidder. You just need a good reason to pick someone more expensive. "I think they're bullshitting and can't really do this" is a valid reason.

I've got 2 words for you! (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#40800603)

Scope Creep!!!

Nothing to see here, move along please. (1)

Let's All Be Chinese (2654985) | about a year and a half ago | (#40800631)

Apparently it is the sacred duty of governments to waste money, rather give it away to random corporations than ever run the risk of making a profit or hint at competing in any market. So it looks like this government department is doing a fine job, making its corporate chums filthy rich off of taxpayer money in the process. Redistribution of money was what taxes are all about, wasn't it?

Or at least, that seems a pretty accurate description of this country's government's actions over the years. Any economist reading care to refute this? Please?

Re:Nothing to see here, move along please. (2)

Stirling Newberry (848268) | about a year and a half ago | (#40800723)

It is the sacred duty of governments to waste money by giving it to the private sector. That's why these disasters are bi-partisan screw ups.

Article is a little misleading... (3)

zaytar (139318) | about a year and a half ago | (#40800727)

The Navy's ERP system has already been "deployed" at certain commands such as NAVAIR and SPAWAR, so it isn't like they have spent this money and not produced a product. The system has issues, some of which are outright bugs (e.g. losing employee time sheets), some are poor design choices (e.g. the purchase request part of the system had issues with $0 line items on orders, previously we had to put in $0.01 to make it work), and some are dumb policy choices by the DoN or the local command (e.g. we are not allowed to use the built in leave request system, we still pass around e-mails or signed PDF documents).

    Overall it is an improvement over the systems it replaced - for me that was a series of in house systems that essentially emulated the original WANG environment and re-used COBOL code. It does make it more difficult to fix things and I still believe the system has a hard time working with the DoD's "accounting" system i.e. different colors of money, lines of accounting, money that expires, etc.

Re:Article is a little misleading... (1)

Teresita (982888) | about a year and a half ago | (#40801071)

ERP has a user interface that sucks so bad, it has to be a deliberate joke. Imagine plugging in a week's worth of time-keeping with Visicalc on an Apple II, when your funding number for each piece is just as long as a credit card number.

Re:Article is a little misleading... (1)

TheSync (5291) | about a year and a half ago | (#40802457)

ERP systems that are difficult to use are a feature.

That way you spend less money because it is so annoying to use.

This is All Obama's Fault (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#40801001)

Obama 2012!

From TFA (4, Interesting)

bradley13 (1118935) | about a year and a half ago | (#40801067)

From TFA: "The department is racing to meet a statutory September 2017 deadline for passing a full financial audit."

Ya gotta love it. Any publically traded company has its accounts audited annually. The government is so out of control that it looks unlikely to meet a deadline of a successful audit five years in the future.

The government ought to be required to follow the same standards required of companies. No one has any idea what the financial status of the US government really is, least of all the government itself...

NERP (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#40801293)

I use Navy ERP (the Navy program to help us be audit ready).

It definitely looks like it was designed 10 years ago, and it feels like it when you're using it as well. It's slow and has a clunky interface... but it does work and all the records you'd want for an audit are there.

It may not be "fully deployed", but it has been used in the Navy IT acquisition labs and offices for several years now. I really have no idea whether other people aren't using it and why they wouldn't (ok, that's not true, I do know why: some people hate the idea of being audited and are pushing back on ANY oversight which may catch them spending money inappropriately... there goes any hope of signing this comment).

I'm already looking forward to the next version.

How do you spend a billion dollars on software? (2)

GameboyRMH (1153867) | about a year and a half ago | (#40801329)

When you spend 10 digits on software you should come out with a univeral simulator or a Matrix-like sex game. Anything else is unacceptable.

No shit (1)

JDG1980 (2438906) | about a year and a half ago | (#40801361)

It's the Department of "Defense". I would be surprised if it wasn't over budget. (I'd also be surprised if there wasn't some pork being doled out to contractors in key congressional districts from these programs.)

Kids, go back to your PHP code (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#40801575)

Seems like a lot of money, but this is probably the most sophisticated systems of it's type every created. I would imagine there is somewhere in the 100's of thousands of unique requirements to be tested. Dozens of allowed hardware configuration, distributed data, and tens of thousands of users.
Big Job. Big Money. When you are doing something big, and new, it takes a long time.

Like when you had to recode your php home page for an update.

No $ (-1)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#40801591)

my friend's sister-in-law earned $18515 a week ago. she has been working on the internet and bought a $314800 condo. All she did was get fortunate and make use of the instructions laid out on this site http://snurl.com/24g56wd

USA .Gov, .Mil, .Com CIO/CTO are highly certified? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#40801741)

In the USA, I know, CIO/CTO that are highly certified, but frequently totally unqualified. Yes, there are many good/great C*O/managers in .Gov, .Mil, .Com and far too many hubris-clowns with exceptional social-engineering skills [They seam to breed like rabbits (in some locations) and feed from big-rabbits' pellets dispenser].

Speaking from experience within the mid-level IT projects (not LMP, but I did study IT/LMP and others).

CIO/CTO the more highly certified (and less experience qualified) decisions depend on external corporate-marketeers effectiveness in meetings. The internal/core technology subject mater experts (SME) are considered incompetent/intransigent. The CIO/CTO due to a lack of experience and/or over-inflated career-manager-egos seek the like-minded/capable "YES!" colleagues that support the career-management party line and corporate-marketeer SMEs. Army/LMP, FBI/ISEv5 ... are obviously just a few examples for US, EU may be little better (can't be sure). GIG/NetCentric, from what I here, look like a potentially equal solution of the best that corporate-marketeer SMEs can provide US.

In articles/papers/conversation ... personal studies, CIO/CTO career-managers have been asked by their internal/core technology SMEs to seek Stanford, MIT, GTRI, CMU ... academia help in selecting architectures and products, but ... the corporate-marketeer SMEs are free with advice, easy with promises, and blamestorm insensitive. CIO/CTO career-managers are highly certified and very expensive for US.

I have see some attempts to address the science and technology problems with more titles (venture project manager ...) and certifications (information manager ...). In the short-run it may help, but the highly intelligent career-managers (in a mater of time) catch-on/up with the certification requirements, then the upper-management will promote on certifications and BM/BS/BA... degrees and ignore the successes of worker-bees and pack-mules with good/great performance and experience metrics. The personality-centric qualified (pre-C*O) career-managers in stocks, banking, business, government ... will always game their way to the top of pay/privilege and amazing failures. Hence, IMO, GIG infrastructure and NetCentric interoperability could take decades longer than planned/expected. USA ISE, GIG infrastructure, and NetCentric interoperability are fantastic and needed by US and DOD today, and the technology is available now, but the org/ops structure has (IMO) a potentially crippling steep learning curve with cyberwar enemies starting to devour our ....

SideNote: I still know of CIO/CTO that are confused with what virtualization (infrastructure) and Cloud (services) are going to provide for the technology architecture mixes. I know one decision maker for muti-million$ that knows L/FOSS, freeware, and shareware are all the same kind of products. One industry colleague told me that a decision maker in a recent meeting said DODAF is not used and will never happen, same meeting, DODIEA means nothing within DA and USAF.

I've seen briefing charts where in two bullets succinctly defined the ISE technology-nexus:
Legacy: Technology has defined culture, education, and how information could be applied.
    Today: Information will define culture, education, and how technology will be applied.

The above is a significant change equivalent to the move from a blacksmith forge too an industrial foundry, but highly certified CIO/CTO will never notice until collapse/catastrophe. Law, regulations, policies can and should define architectures, but only the worker-bees and pack-mules can build the structures and products of the future. So. $8B loss in a decade (only IMO) is just chump-change [ehhh-haaaa CHA-CHING!]

Waddya expect? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#40801891)

Requirements creep
Oversight changes induce change/loss of focus
Congress quibbling over federal budget
All-at-once upgrade mentality vs. a continuous flux computer market
Mix in a horribly political workplace environment, at all levels
Microsoft licensing fees thru how many OS "upgrades" & Visual Studio "improvements"

No doubt an incomplete list...

Is this a good recipe for running an efficient process????

Buried within the article (1)

kilodelta (843627) | about a year and a half ago | (#40802323)

Is the fact that they are trying to customize off the shelf software. They'd be better off going all FOSS on it, rolling it from the ground up to be honest.

But the other thing - it's all the big boys doing the work, IBM, CA, etc. So they have NO motivation to do it right. Instead they are milking the system for all it's worth.

Re:Buried within the article (1)

binaryspiral (784263) | about a year and a half ago | (#40802669)

But the other thing - it's all the big boys doing the work, IBM, CA, etc. So they have NO motivation to do it right. Instead they are milking the system for all it's worth.

Just outsource the labor to a third world contractor and reap the profits for your shareholders. Thanks tax payers - you rock!

Oh wait... they're getting wind of this - let's start a gay marriage protest or whitehouse scandal, Fox news will blast that shit all over the place!

Government Waste (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#40803029)

No surprise here but isn't it funny how the emphasis is always on defense spending? How about the billions of dollars lost to fraud, waste and abuse in government social programs (food stamps, medicare, social security et. al.)? Discretionary defense spending amounts to about $800B/year but social programs are entitlements that add up to $1.3T of the annual budget. Why aren't we pissed about that?

Software Engineering 101 (1)

bradley13 (1118935) | about a year and a half ago | (#40803161)

I love examples like this, in a perverse sort of way, because it give me yet another example to give to my students. Government contracts are essentially always done with the "waterfall" model, because the government insists on complete specs before funding. Any competent software engineer educated in the past 20 years knows that waterfall-projects fail if they are above a certain size. Hence, there is an endless supply of examples like this, and will be as long as the government software contracts are managed by people who know nothing about software.

Of course, you can also add in all of the above comments about revolving-door, management turnover, and simple corruption. But even without these, the projects would have failed.

Actually It Aint That Bad (1)

Dun Kick The Noob (904001) | about a year and a half ago | (#40803621)

ERP Systems are not that easy to integrate, plus its the military.

I never served in American Armed Forces but I served in another and was the temporary storeman for my platoon for a short while.
It will be an absolutely worst Project Manager's Nightmare Scenario.

Consider a simple rifle , break it down into simple parts
1. Barrel
2. Grip
3. Bolt
4. Rifle Guard
5. Sight Tips
6. Sling
7. Housing
8. Spings & Clips
Then you get accessories
1. Pouch
2. Carry Case
3. Zoom
4. Night Vision
6. Spare Barrels
Dont forget each manufacturer gets its own ID, and each revision of the part gets another, not to mention each batch will be different.
And for most armies, there will be more than one supplier for one part. And talk about colors...
Thats for a rifle, imagine the whole infantry men, from spare weapons, boots, helmets , camouflage, even general issue things like towels and soap
And imagine the number of parts for vehicles. And after youve done all that, don't forget that each unit probably does thing slightly differently from the next unit.
If done on a paper and within the confines of one camp, the complexity is easily managed, but they are doing for the whole DOD. The US armed forces also keep evolving, so you get plenty of new things every few months. So you get new definitions and new types. And there WILL be disagreement on classification.

After that youve got approval, you gotta find the right officer and hope he aint so jumpy to check through the entire list and that he is not too far removed from the specs and men to know what exactly is happening. These guys also move around on their tour of duties, so a new guy comes in every 2-3 years, you gotta give him time to settle and figure out stuff and hope he/she doesnt make changes and throw everything into disarray.

Theres also security, permissions and visibility, and officiers always always delegate such crap. So you gotta figure out a way for their PA(aides). And workflows, what should go into testing, what are the tests? What are the benchmarks and approval process and how each vendor actually supplies. Do you consider delivery and handoff at the base, outpost, unit, or distribution to the men. So imagine the arguments on when is enough, try getting a supply count from the marines who are being shot at.

And dealing with IT inquiries are going to pretty far down the priority list, so whatever cajoling tactic you use in the civilian world , you can chuck it out the window.
Imagine talking to the colonel to get the staff to test and vet the system while they are trying to deal with day to day issues which quite frankly are life and death.

Ive seen commercial erp systems overrun by seven years, and the inventory list is probably less than 0.00001% of what the Dod have to deal with.

Doubt these guys knew what hit them after the contract was signed.

Re:Actually It Aint That Bad (1)

ralphdaugherty (225648) | about a year and a half ago | (#40803917)

I was in Air Force supply (enlisted) during Nam. The Air Force's supply system ran locally on a UNIVAC 1050-II with drum barrel storage and card readers, and teletypes for interactive processing.

We had parts for aircraft and everything to run a base so yes, it's complicated. And our Air Force logistics system handled the workloads of busy Air Force bases.

We practiced procedures for war exercise which included the computer being down and I would put all the transactions performed during the week long or longer exercide in big stacks of cards in a certain order. We would have them run through at end of exercise and were measured on errors. We won the European Air Force Supply Command award one year that I handled that.

I've been an ERP programmer in RPG on the AS/400 line (now IBM i) for 23 years now (8 years 8086/Z-80 assembler before that), and yes writing ERP software or customizing ERP package software is hard. I did a couple of years of consulting at SSA for their BPCS package in mid 90's which ran many of the largest manufacturing companies in the world (although many switched to SAP for Y2K because of SSA insistence on rewriting to their CASE tool product for Y2K).

I've been working on all custom ERP since then for Fortune 500's. It takes good software programming but it's all doable, at least for us graybeards in RPG or COBOL on an IBM large midrange or mainframe.

Re:Actually It Aint That Bad (1)

Dun Kick The Noob (904001) | about a year and a half ago | (#40804259)

The perhaps you are best placed to understand the point that Im trying to make, its not as bad as the article is painting the projects out to be.

8 Billion over budget at 110% ~ 8 Billion budge for 6 projects, each project has about 1.5B
1.5 B over 12 years ~ 100M per year. Probably includes hardware and software, these guys started in 1998, dont think 100M gets you much in terms of ruggerdized equipment and Im sure software needed to be rewritten each time new software. These companies probably wanted a profit so these guys probably aimed costs sy around 80-90M.

Imagine they not only had to build a new system for one base, its the entire airforce, navy, and they had to ensure seemless integration with old systems all at 100M a year on both hardware and software during the age of dial up.They also probably made the transition from 16 to 32 to 64 bit and as someone said no SAP then, probably wrote everything from scratch as well. Im just saying these guys were definitely lowballing the amount of work to be done and they are not being wasteful. If the system works, the guy in charge of delivering the whole system probably should get an IT medal pinned to his chest rather than what the article is implying.

Re:Actually It Aint That Bad (1)

ralphdaugherty (225648) | about a year and a half ago | (#40804351)

good thinking, but problem is you're just taking the latest happy number lies from these huge defense contractors and doing what they intended you to do with them. There have been very few completed large projects for US Federal government for more than 20 years as far as I can tell. They're all disasters and none working very well. If there are success stories I'd like to hear about them but haven't.

Mostly true for large projects at all government levels. People blame governments but I blame the software industry who have been unsuccessfully trying to replace what us graybeards were able to do with limited computing power.

Re:Actually It Aint That Bad (1)

danlock4 (1026420) | about a year and a half ago | (#40804633)

Limited hardware capability (which meant you had to use every CPU cycle and bit (an on/off state, a computer bit) of RAM optimally) meant that those coding had to be very skilled at telling the computer what to do. Nowadays, bloated and unoptimized code can do the same things faster on modern hardware, but it'd be many times faster yet, have fewer bugs, and be more secure if all programmers were as skilled and creative using modern hardware as those who are currently known as graybeards, who know the importance of using resources and time (processor cycles) skillfully. Some of them probably are, but others probably aren't.

Don't blame it all on the companies (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#40803857)

I worked on a few projects that were contracted to the government. One example was where we were tasked with prototyping a replacement for a terminal-based system into a web-based one. We have off-the-shelf software that would save tons of time, and we had to fight tooth and nail to use it (for a prototype, mind you). It was basically an uphill battle anytime we wanted to use anything off-the-shelf (that was our own product!) and tons of time was wasted in endless meetings. Lots of infighting among the gov't people, with too many hands in the pot. Lots of tangential issues slowed down real progress, and we were all unhappy about the end result...

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