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Why Can't Big Government Launch a Website?

samzenpus posted about a year ago | from the failure-to-launch dept.

Medicine 786

MarkWhittington writes "Glenn Reynolds, the purveyor of Instapundit, asked the pertinent question, 'If big government can put a man on the moon, why can't it put up a simple website without messing it up?' The answer, as it turns out, is a rather simple one. The Apollo program, that President John F. Kennedy mandated to put a man on the moon and return him to the Earth, was a simple idea well carried out for a number of reasons. The primary one was that Congress did not pass a 1,800 or so page bill backed up by a mind-numbing amount of regulations mandating how NASA would do it. The question of how to conduct the lunar voyages was left up to the engineers at NASA and the aerospace industry at the time. The government simply provided the resources necessary to do the job and a certain degree of oversight. Imagine if President Obama had stated, 'I believe the nation should commit itself to the goal of enabling all Americans to access affordable health insurance' but then left the how to do it to some of the best experts in health care and economics without partisan interference."

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The answer is SIMPLE (5, Funny)

BreakBad (2955249) | about a year ago | (#45258163)


Re:The answer is SIMPLE (4, Informative)

jriding (1076733) | about a year ago | (#45258319)

It's not the lawyers, it's the developers.

Re:The answer is SIMPLE (0, Troll)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#45258469)


Actually the answer is even simpler. Republicans. Because it turns the government does have an Apollo program for health care - Medicare. And guess what, it works great.

Re:The answer is SIMPLE (2)

fred911 (83970) | about a year ago | (#45258575)

It's not the lawyers it's the only profession less respected, politicians.

Re:The answer is SIMPLE (5, Insightful)

jellomizer (103300) | about a year ago | (#45258595)

Well it is worse then that. Most Politicians were Lawyers, Every once in a while you may get a Businessman, a Professor or a MD. But most come from the Legal background.

That is a big problem!

How we solve problems is often reflected in our professions.
I am a software architect, to me I see most problems can be solved them differently then an engineer, which is different then how a School teacher would...

All these Lawyers in politics is causing a problem where they don't know of other ways to solve problems and they think the only way to do this is changing the law. While that is part of the governments job, we don't have leaders anymore just a bunch of lawers

What ? (-1, Troll)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#45258175)

without partisan interference

You're making a joke, right ?

This is all the Democrats, and nothing but Democrat.

Re:What ? (3, Insightful)

jedidiah (1196) | about a year ago | (#45258225)

This is a function of the problems of doing anything with or for the federal government. The fact that a large state like California could pull off a similar system successfully demonstrates this to be true. The problem is the federal beaurocracy.

Now the question of why Apollo was successful when a seemingly simple website is not likely boils down to time. The federal government has had a long time to get worse in the 40 or so years between Apollo and today. Plus Apollo had a longer timeline.

Re: What ? (5, Informative)

drewsup (990717) | about a year ago | (#45258323)

Yup, just ask the UK how the NHS upgrade went, 16 Billion spent and then pulled the plug.

Re:What ? (1)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#45258349)

They should totally privatize it. Look at successful launches like EA are known for. That's private efficiency at work.

Re:What ? (4, Insightful)

Karl Cocknozzle (514413) | about a year ago | (#45258403)

This is a function of the problems of doing anything with or for the federal government. The fact that a large state like California could pull off a similar system successfully demonstrates this to be true. The problem is the federal beaurocracy.

Now the question of why Apollo was successful when a seemingly simple website is not likely boils down to time. The federal government has had a long time to get worse in the 40 or so years between Apollo and today. Plus Apollo had a longer timeline.

Eh, sort of. I'd say the problem was political, that is, the forces that are opposed to the law taking effect commanded their congress-puppets to scream bloody murder about "one penny!" being spent on "Obamacare!" before a court weighed in on constitutionality. Add to that two dozen states dragging their feet until the last minute to say "no thanks" to a Federal Exchange (to purposefully make the job more complex further down the line than it needed to be) what you have is a recipe of failure. Between stupidly kow-towing to people trying to create a failure (rather than acting despite of their complaints) and the actual active-efforts to create failure it's a small miracle it works as well as it does.

Re:What ? (-1, Troll)

bluefoxlucid (723572) | about a year ago | (#45258517)

Let's eliminate the Federal Government.

Re:What ? (2, Funny)

MickyTheIdiot (1032226) | about a year ago | (#45258569)

YEAH! We got a model! Just look at the success that Somalia has with that system!

Re:What ? (2, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#45258309)

Sorry, if this were all the Democrats, we'd have a single payer system. The monstrosity that exists is all Republican.

Re:What ? (1)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#45258407)

How do you rationalize that when the entire republican party was unified in voting against it?

Re:What ? (1)

CanHasDIY (1672858) | about a year ago | (#45258441)

How do you rationalize that when the entire republican party was unified in voting against it?

He's likely basing the assumption on the fact that the individual mandate did originate from the Republican camp, but is forgetting that Democrats did their own part to write, pass, and half-assed enforce the law.

FWIW, and not absolving their guilt in this situation, but it wasn't a Repub who said "we have to sign it to see what's in it."

Re:What ? (4, Informative)

bluefoxlucid (723572) | about a year ago | (#45258557)

Nobody said that. Pelosi said we have to pass the bill "so *you* can see what's in it." The normal quote is made to show that Congress didn't know what was in it; but Pelosi was addressing the constituency and trying to imply that they don't know what a bill is about until the changes start happening in real life--that we don't know how the bill will affect us until it's passed, and so all the media hooplah is just noise we shouldn't concern ourselves with.

Still an idiotic statement.

Re:What ? (-1, Troll)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#45258513)

The monstrosity that exists is all Republican.

Spoken like a true Democrat.

Write the law, pass the law, implement the law, and when it sucks giant donkey balls, blame someone else.

I think we have hit the nail on the head why sucks.

It's because progressive Democrat socialism sucks, and is supported by irresponsible people who can't function and survive without extorted assistance.

Re:What ? (1)

ebno-10db (1459097) | about a year ago | (#45258603)

if this were all the Democrats, we'd have a single payer system

I agree, but it's a shame sightings of real Democrats these days is rarer than sightings of Sasquatch.

If it's a choice between a genuine Republican, and a Republican in Democratic clothing, the people will choose the genuine article, every time

-- Harry Truman

What ? (-1)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#45258653)


How brainwashed can you be? The system was 100% passed by Democrats, over the objections of 100% of Republicans.

There was no debate, no negotiation, and a rejection of any Republican suggestions on how to make it better.

This was 100% controlled, owned, created, and implemented by Democrats, and here you blame the Republicans?

I suppose some people will grab onto any illusion they can to preserve their views of the world.

Re:What ? (5, Insightful)

darkwing_bmf (178021) | about a year ago | (#45258341)

You realize the law has a lot of things in it to make Republicans happy right (such as dropping the government option from the plan)? And Republicans decided they'd rather make Obama look bad than make sure people have health coverage right? It would be like if during the Apollo mission Republicans ran congress and kept trying to sabotage the program to make JFK/LBJ look bad.

Re:What ? (5, Insightful)

MickyTheIdiot (1032226) | about a year ago | (#45258457)

This whole thing is happening because of two reasons: 1) People are afraid of a word: socialism and 2) most of our population has bought into the debate being framed as a false dilemma argument and, so if we have single payer we are therefore a socialist country.

The republicans are right about something for the wrong reasons: we didn't really have a ACA or Obamacare debate. That's because the U.S. doesn't really have *debates* anymore. We allow someone to frame the debate (usually the Republicans, but sometimes the Mass Media) and no one discusses how that frame is causing a logical fallacy.

There is also a 3) many people can't get beyond their own ideologies. Off the record many of the biggest multinationals have told reporters that they have run the numbers and single payer would help them, but they come out because of bias at the boardroom level. Small business would DEFINITELY be helped by single payer as talented people would be more inclined to accept a small business job without the healthcare fear.

Re:What ? (4, Insightful)

ebno-10db (1459097) | about a year ago | (#45258641)

Off the record many of the biggest multinationals have told reporters that they have run the numbers and single payer would help them

Sometimes even on the record. One time Toyota had a choice between putting a factory in the US and Canada, and flat out said they chose Canada in large part because of their health care system. And you wonder how Toyota beat GM. Hint: they think with their wallets instead of their country club buddies.

Congress.... (3, Interesting)

jythie (914043) | about a year ago | (#45258205)

While not uniquely and American problem, this seems to be a recurring issue with the way our government operates. Other countries have managed to put together similar sites with, well, I do not want to say 'little' difficulty since any such undertaking is going to have problems, but 'less' difficulty might work.

Though it has mostly been smaller countries that have done such projects well, so what we might be looking at here is an artifact of having a large and diverse country with lots of competing philosophies, interests, and actual needs.

Re:Congress.... (3, Insightful)

Githaron (2462596) | about a year ago | (#45258499)

Hence a major reason not to federalize a lot of power.

The reason is private insurance (5, Insightful)

Chalnoth (1334923) | about a year ago | (#45258215)

It's complicated because the insurance industry is complicated. It's complicated because we didn't have the political will to simply go for Medicare for all. That would have been simple. Instead, we have this complex cluge that has to work with an even more complex private insurance industry. It actually does make the market for private insurance simpler, but that really isn't saying much.

Re:The reason is private insurance (3, Interesting)

jedidiah (1196) | about a year ago | (#45258255)

There is nothing complicated about knowing what the available options are and matching them to an individual. There's nothing complicated about computing a person's subsidy eligibility.

If Kentucky can manage this kind of thing, then anyone can.

This system doesn't have to manage the ENTIRE health insurance industry. It only has to manage a very small part of it and most of that isn't even visible to the end user.

Re:The reason is private insurance (5, Insightful)

sweatyboatman (457800) | about a year ago | (#45258451)

there's nothing complicated about integrating the federal income and identity verification with state eligibility systems and dozens or hundreds of private insurers systems, ensuring that no information "leaks out" and that everything works in real time? There's nothing complicated about that?

It should have worked. It didn't. That's life. Remember when Slashdot rolled out its new commenting system? That sucked. We all complained. Now it works fine and nobody thinks about it. But I don't remember anyone arguing that it was a sign that private web companies were incapable of designing functional websites.

Re:The reason is private insurance (-1, Flamebait)

dfenstrate (202098) | about a year ago | (#45258495)

This system doesn't have to manage the ENTIRE health insurance industry.

You underestimate the ambition of those that would be your masters. They're so enamored with their own supposed righteousness and capability that they'll destroy anything that stands between them and the implementation of their grand vision.

Note that the Affordable Care act is now resposible for far more people losing their plans ("You can keep your plan if you like it." and if it conforms to the massively expensive requirements now in effect.) than gaining new coverage. But hey, the people who rammed this bill down our throats have good intentions, so let's excuse the actual destruction we're in the middle of experiencing.

Re:The reason is private insurance (3, Insightful)

garcia (6573) | about a year ago | (#45258425)

No, the problem is that the public sector does not operate anything at all like the private sector all the while trying to emulate it under the overhead and red tape that comes along with requiring the public's input.

In addition to the issues seen with how the public sector operates, we have the requirement of outsourcing to the private sector to do the bulk of work through private/public partnerships which the public sector cannot and will not effectively manage,

The competing interests of these partnerships leans heavily on the private sector to make loads of money while the public sector expects them to operate within the bounds of the red tape the private sector is not accustomed or willing to accept as part of their business model.

If the government took this upon themselves to do anything in its entirety, it would likely be done slowly but correctly. Unfortunately, we end up with the result we did: a quickly cobbled together, expensive, and poorly implemented product which would never have seen the light of day in the private sector.

This happens ALL THE TIME with public/private partnerships. Take a look at the website redesign for the City of Apple Valley, Minnesota which was originally budgeted at $76,000 [] but later reduced to a much more reasonable, although still incredibly expensive $30,000 [] . The resulting site is basically unusable, slow, horrendous to update, and slightly more useless than its predecessor (lipstick on a pig).

Assumes we still could do that moon thing (5, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#45258237)

Do you really think the government could get its act together enough to put a person on the moon again? Have you been paying attention?

Happens in private sector too (3, Insightful)

Cajun Hell (725246) | about a year ago | (#45258243)

The more management feels they need to say about how to do something, the harder it is and the longer it takes.

Make me a website: easy.

Make me a website using WordPress and it must use this particular plugin: hard (since it's very unlikely that particular plugin is well-suited to the job; if it made sense to use it, they wouldn't have told you that you have to use it) (and for that matter, it's vanishingly unlikely that WordPress itself is going to be suitable for the application in question, for the same reason: if it made sense, then it wouldn't be a requirement).

I've seen things' time blossom by a factor of ten, due to stupid shit like this. Seriously, that's not an exaggeration.

Re: Happens in private sector too (1)

lightknight (213164) | about a year ago | (#45258413)

Because building websites is a tad bit more difficult than they are giving credit for? Think about it. They want to be commanders, handing down orders, and seeing them implemented...but they are seeing themselves fail time and time again. They are then obviously missing something...something so close to home that it's taken for granted.

Building websites means dealing with potentially dozens of vendors, whose products are more like legoes than fine tools. (Not that we don't love the tools we do have...we just know how difficult it is to build tools that are good). It means dealing with abstracts, and putting their designs into an implementation. That's a lot of mental travelling.

This is not taken into account by those who understand least, yet control the most, of their wages. It's a communication issue, a wage issue, and several thousand other issues which, at this point, even I've thrown up my hands in frustration.

Re:Happens in private sector too (2)

Enry (630) | about a year ago | (#45258439)

I was tangentially related to a project that was supposed to setup chargeback for a HPC environment. Before I left it was going on for over a year and was just barely in an alpha state (i.e. just past a mockup). There were still core operational questions that needed to be answered and nobody who could answer them was part of the project or brought in.

Close (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#45258519)

There are three layers of impossiblity. The first is that systems engineering is hard. Most "very large" software projects fail miserably. Government and industry both have similar failure rates, and they're well over 50%. The second is that the government acquisition system is so incomprehensibly complex that only large contractors with an entrenched management structure can meet the oversight requirements to be eligible to compete for large government projects. The third is that the requirements stated for the project changed faster than anythign could be accomplished. Each one of these is in itself fatal to a project. Getting the three together gives you thinks like the F-35, SLS, EMRs, etc...

Don't even compare the two (-1)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#45258251)

2013 government and 1969 government are nothing alike. This is the bloated piece of shit Americans wanted. This is the bloated piece of shit Americans deserve.

Re:Don't even compare the two (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#45258277)

The blind leading the blind. Well spoken good sir.

they did (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#45258253)

you expected a fucked up and broken government to not produce a fucked up and broken website?

Apollo 1? Apollo 13? (5, Informative)

sweatyboatman (457800) | about a year ago | (#45258257)

Our efforts to land on the moon didn't go smoothly. Also we spent a lot more money to go to the moon.

Apollo 1 was scheduled to be the first manned mission of the U.S. Apollo manned lunar landing program, with a target launch date of February 21, 1967. A cabin fire during a launch pad test on January 27 at Launch Pad 34 at Cape Canaveral killed all three crew members—Command Pilot Virgil I. "Gus" Grissom, Senior Pilot Edward H. White II and Pilot Roger B. Chaffee—and destroyed the Command Module (CM). []

Apollo 13 was the seventh manned mission in the American Apollo space program and the third intended to land on the Moon... but the lunar landing was aborted after an oxygen tank exploded two days later, crippling the Service Module (SM) upon which the Command Module (CM) depended. Despite great hardship caused by limited power, loss of cabin heat, shortage of potable water, and the critical need to jury-rig the carbon dioxide removal system, the crew returned safely to Earth on April 17. []

Complex problems are complex.

Re:Apollo 1? Apollo 13? (1)

Mitchell314 (1576581) | about a year ago | (#45258343)

Not to mention, Apollo 11's computer crashed at a very inopportune moment too during landing. I do remember something about the development project for the command module's software going rather roughly.

$136 Billion in Today's Dollars (4, Informative)

sweatyboatman (457800) | about a year ago | (#45258405)

NASA's budget peaked in the period 1964-1966, during the height of construction efforts leading up to the first moon landing under Project Apollo which involved more than 34,000 NASA employees and 375,000 employees of industrial and university contractors. Roughly 4% of the total federal budget was being devoted to the space program. []

My back of the envelope calculation puts 4% of the US's 2013 budget expenditures at $150 billion. So an equivalent enterprise by the United States government would be roughly half a trillion dollars.

The failure of to work properly shows what everyone here on Slashdot already knows: project planning is difficult.

sigh (-1)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#45258259)

Actually over 10,500 pages of rules and regulations. And let me be clear, if its anything like our "Dear Leader"'s use of the english language it is useless, contradictory and full of promise with no action.

Sabotage (1, Insightful)

Sponge Bath (413667) | about a year ago | (#45258261)

The Apollo program did not have one party actively trying to sabotage it. Can you imagine a party shutting down government July 15 (day before Apollo 11 launched) unless the whole program was scrapped?

Re:Sabotage (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#45258337)

huh? The only people actively sabotaging it are the donks.

Re:Sabotage (-1)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#45258365)

No. You do not get to blam this on the Republicans. This is 100% Democrats, all day long and from top to bottom.

Not one Republican voted for this shit. It took a full majority in Senate and House to pull this off and at that they had to bribe and cheat and pull favors left and right.

You cannot blame the Republicans who are doing exactly what should be done, but doing so with near perfect incompetance.

You voted commie, you got commie. Now suck it up and embrace the tyranny jerkface.

Re:Sabotage (2)

geogob (569250) | about a year ago | (#45258465)

I guess it's kinda fun to force the children to enter the house through the pigsty and then blame them for dragging shit in.
That surely enables an happy family.

Re:Sabotage (3, Interesting)

alen (225700) | about a year ago | (#45258379)

never heard of walter mondale, have you? senator and one time presidential candidate tried to kill apollo.

Re:Sabotage (-1)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#45258381)

and a whole bunch of people who will vote for everything.

Exactly how did they "try" to sabotage it? It was already passed and was in work LONG before the 17% (how did we ever get along with 17% less gov't) "shutdown". It was a train wreck when the DEMOCRATS passed it without a single Repub vote. It was a train wreck after they tried 40 some odd times to get rid of it over the past 3 years, and it's a train wreck that hasn't even finished destroying everything in it's path and dumping millions of gallons of toxic waste that it was loaded with.

And now we have Democrats calling it what it is.....a fucking train wreck.

Re:Sabotage (2)

fustakrakich (1673220) | about a year ago | (#45258461)

The Apollo program did not have one party actively trying to sabotage it.

Ultimately it did. The last three moon missions were cancelled. Luckily Skylab kept it from being a total loss.

Re:Sabotage (2)

Garbonzo Pitts (249836) | about a year ago | (#45258505)

Please explain with detailed examples how Republican speeches and failed votes in the House to defund ACA affected the implementation of the web site.

Re:Sabotage (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#45258611)

I'm glad the ACA is being sabotaged. I hope more people step the fuck up and start doing whatever they can to make it fail.

Bipartisan moon trip (2)

mwvdlee (775178) | about a year ago | (#45258263)

If I recall correctly, the man-on-the-moon trip wasn't a very controversial political issue. The health care plan is. No doubt the political forces would have managed to screw this up even further.
Also; nobody feels responsible. Fuck up part of a lunar lander and you will get the blame if somebody dies. Fuck up part of a website and it's unlikely your company will be traced back from any deaths due to lack of medical service that might occur.

A sense a proportion (1)

sweatyboatman (457800) | about a year ago | (#45258507)

No one is going to die because the website doesn't work. Comparing this to the moon landing is so sophomoric it could only come from USA Today. But it's nothing like landing on the moon in scale, expense, or national achievement. is a website. It's important for the ACA and it's important for individuals looking to purchase health insurance, but there are alternative ways to shop for insurance on the exchanges.

Not everything need be bandied about for political gain.

NASA isn't a private contractor (5, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#45258269)

This post makes it sound like NASA is a private contractor that takes the job out of "the governments" hands, so it can be done properly and efficiently. But that is not the case, you have just provided an example that government organizations can run things efficiently.

Because it wasn't just a simple website... (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#45258279)

it's a complicated system interfacing to lots of other complicated systems.

apollo took almost a decade (4, Insightful)

alen (225700) | about a year ago | (#45258281)

of constant testing, refinement and a series of more complicated missions. not like the first mission went straight to the moon. a few people even died in a fire during prep for a mission. they even had multiple crews training for the same mission at the same time knowing only one crew was going up

the obamacare website the contractors had to build in a few months and code hundreds of pages of law and regulations into logical business rules and a database schema. and no time was there testing or a ramp up of opening up the site to a few people and then allowing more people access as they work out the bugs

Imagine (5, Insightful)

sacrilicious (316896) | about a year ago | (#45258285)

Imagine if President Obama had stated, 'I believe the nation should commit itself to the goal of enabling all Americans to access affordable health insurance' but then left the how to do it to some of the best experts in health care and economics without partisan interference."

Yes, imagine if he or anyone had had the political freedom to leave such a choice to truly non-partisan experts... but he didn't have that freedom, because there are such corporate interests vested in the outcome, with tentacles all into both parties, that such freedom to do so does not exist. If back in Kennedy's day there were numerous huge wealthy corporations with interests in the moon landing NOT happening, or happening on different timetables with different agendas, *and* the liberty to corrupt politics with money had reached the fever pitch it has today, *and* politicians had already given up the idea of even posturing to seem like they had nobility and dignity above that of a Geraldo show, THEN the moon landing might well and truly have been f*cked.

I was all for Obamacare until I found out I was (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#45258295),0,2756077.story

"She said, 'I was all for Obamacare until I found out I was paying for it,'" Kehaly said."

Of course we told you all this would be the case.

Sympathy? Not a fucking ounce. Suck it up and enjoy your tyranny dickheads.

Re:I was all for Obamacare until I found out I was (0)

Viewsonic (584922) | about a year ago | (#45258373)

Why not? Why not just push for a full NHS like Europe at this point instead? No one should have to be paying for health care in this country, we're far too wealthy to let such basic services go unchecked. This is a start, not the best, but a start. Everyone I know has been denied health care because they had migraines, a colonoscopy, high blood pressure, and even sinus problems. The industry only wants to insure people who will never go to the doctor. It's a ridiculous situation.

Re:I was all for Obamacare until I found out I was (-1, Troll)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#45258421)

"No one should have to be paying for health care in this country, we're far too wealthy"

Oh I love it, no one should pay huh? So you expect hip replacements to just rain out of the fucking sky and broken legs to magically set themselves?

The stupid around here just cannot be topped.

This is no start to anything, it's a state power grab and nothing more. You are a tyrant and you support tyrants, how does it feel statist?

You wonder how people like Stalin and Hitler came to power huh? Not me.

Re:I was all for Obamacare until I found out I was (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#45258535)

Why not get rid of medicare and medicaid and let poor losers like you who are too lazy to work for your insurance die. I bet a lot of these people with out health insurance have video game systems and 20 inch rims on mercedes and beamers that are being paid for with low interest loans. If you like NHS so much than pack your shit and move to Europe. Since it's so fucking great what is stopping you from going?

This is why (4, Insightful)

Chas (5144) | about a year ago | (#45258301)

Because you have a bunch of people who have zero technical knowledge and zero REAL project management experience calling the shots. They come up with bullshit specs and a bunch of pie-in-the-sky.

Because some greedy fuck of a salesdisck at a company sees "Gubmint Fundin'", performs a cranial-rectal insertion and promises shit his techs have NO way to actually deliver.

Because the American people have gotten out of the habit of tarring, feathering and lynching civil servants that pull stupid shit like this.

No-Bid contract to cronies perhaps? (3, Insightful)

C R Johnson (141) | about a year ago | (#45258307)

It is also called graft.
They awarded a 700M$ contract without bidding to a company with ties to the Obama campaign and to people high up in the administration.
As to be expected, the company was not competent and failed.

Re:No-Bid contract to cronies perhaps? (3, Informative)

alen (225700) | about a year ago | (#45258393)

and how did apollo work?

the big aerospace companies created a common company they owned together to do the work and divvied up the sub contracts amongst each other along with the profits

Re:No-Bid contract to cronies perhaps? (4, Informative)

haapi (16700) | about a year ago | (#45258479)

$700M? $800M? A Beeellion dollars? This mis-attributed number seems to keep going up and up.
$634 million is the sum of all contracts let to CGI over seven years, not the amount expended on the web site.

Not only that, CGI had failed before... (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#45258625) building complex, database-driven websites.

Repeatedly. []

CGI is so Canadian their name is French: Conseillers en Gestion et Informatique. Their most famous government project was for the Canadian Firearms Registry. The registry was estimated to cost in total $119 million, which would be offset by $117 million in fees. That’s a net cost of $2 million. Instead, by 2004 the CBC (Canada’s PBS) was reporting costs of some $2 billion — or a thousand times more expensive.

Yeah, yeah, I know, we’ve all had bathroom remodelers like that. But in this case the database had to register some 7 million long guns belonging to some two-and-a-half to three million Canadians. That works out to almost $300 per gun — or somewhat higher than the original estimate for processing a firearm registration of $4.60. Of those $300 gun registrations, Canada’s auditor general reported to parliament that much of the information was either duplicated or wrong in respect to basic information such as names and addresses.

Sound familiar?

Also, there was a 1-800 number, but it wasn’t any use.

Sound familiar?

So it was decided that the sclerotic database needed to be improved.

Sound familiar?

But it proved impossible to “improve” CFIS (the Canadian Firearms Information System). So CGI was hired to create an entirely new CFIS II, which would operate alongside CFIS I until the old system could be scrapped. CFIS II was supposed to go operational on January 9, 2003, but the January date got postponed to June, and 2003 to 2004, and $81 million was thrown at it before a new Conservative government scrapped the fiasco in 2007. Last year, the government of Ontario canceled another CGI registry that never saw the light of day — just for one disease, diabetes, and costing a mere $46 million.

Its about the Sum of the Parts [gt] Whole. (5, Interesting)

Bucc5062 (856482) | about a year ago | (#45258313)

NASA had it easy. They only had to deal with Physics.

Social Sciences are messy, Social programs are messy and when it involves large groups of people, politicians get involved which makes a services program almost impossible to get right. Given current technology (at the time) there were just a limited number of ways the Moon mission could be completed. Creating a web site in a fractious, antagonist political world had/has too many variables to "get it right". It took close to 10 years to get a man on the moon, and somehow we're suppose to build a complicated heath management system in a few months...It is not a question of expertise, both environments have talent, but it was/is a question of Management, goals, and commitment. NASA employees were vested and proud of their work for they were a part of the whole. CGI Federal *contractors* don't give a shit about the whole, just their slice of the dollar pie. That is why we can put a man on the moon, but can't write a complex web site. (IMHO)

Re:Its about the Sum of the Parts [gt] Whole. (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#45258501)

This. Physics is immutable. Healthcare laws and regulations change on a daily basis.

Re:Its about the Sum of the Parts [gt] Whole. (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#45258561)

Sorry but your comment contains a number of logical fallacies.

Healthcare *is* a science. Full. Stop.

Now I grant you that state run health insurance is a social program and not science, but we were sold this bag of shit to solve a problem in delivering healthcare. All of us against the thing have told the drones and statists that state run health insurance would be a disaster, but hey, we are only being proven right and will continue to do so, unfortuately.

"That is why we can put a man on the moon, but can't write a complex web site."

No, sorry, just fucking no. Writing complex software isn't dead easy, but it's also not that hard, and is something we can do.

You would think the audience around here doesn't need to have that one explained to them.

What doesn't work is government, plain and simple. It's necessary but a necessary evil. Keep government, but keep it limited and in check. Government is like fire, very useful when controlled and managed. Easily allowed to get out of control and will consume everything in its path and kill all around it.

Welcome to the party pal.

To paraphrase Dennis Miller: (-1)

mistaryte (2446492) | about a year ago | (#45258329)

the government can't pave f**king roads.

Why such a long bill? Why is there a website? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#45258331)

Why is there any website at all? What is preventing these people from going to the websites of the individual companies? It seems like a bill requiring health insurance for pre-existing conditions and subsidies for people that need them would have solved most of the problems. It seems many of the people who didn't have health insurance before the bill were just lazy junkies. Why does there need to be an individual mandate? Why not pass a bill that mandates any hospitals receiving government funds not give care to people without insurance. I bet many people would seek out insurance after that. The ones that don't are probably douche bags that we don't need in our society.

Re:Why such a long bill? Why is there a website? (2)

Enry (630) | about a year ago | (#45258485)

Well, there should be 50 web sites, one for each state. But 34 (or 36?) states decided they didn't want to do it, so had to be extended to handle way more states than they expected. If I go to look for MA or NY, I don't have to sign in, I just get redirected to the state exchange which operates separately.

Why not? (5, Insightful)

T.E.D. (34228) | about a year ago | (#45258335)

Anywhere from 30 to 70% of large IT projects fail, depending on who you ask. Why would the US Government be immune?

in hindsight we should have elected Newt (1)

shadowrat (1069614) | about a year ago | (#45258347)

When you take into consideration what government is good at, it's now clear that we would have had that awesome lunar base by now.

The Government got in its' Own Way (2)

X!0mbarg (470366) | about a year ago | (#45258369)

If you want a project to fail (as some in opposition to Obama certainly do), you pad a simple, decent idea with enough B.S. to make it collapse under its own weight, and then blame the source.

I call it "Bureaucratic Sabotage". Agree to allow something to happen, and then Bury it in B.S. and layer on the Pork-Barrel extras to make sure it fails miserably, while claiming to be co-operative, all the while knowing what the results will be...

Bottom line is: Good Luck on getting any decent idea through "Government" without it getting totally Buggered (and otherwise mutated) from its' original form and function.

Technology cannot (easily) fix social problems.... (2)

jkrise (535370) | about a year ago | (#45258375)

Putting a rocket on the moon is a purely technical problem; nothing social or political about it. Automating the healthcare industry involves several players:

1. The care givers
2. The care receivers
3. The insurance agents
4. Lawyers
5. Politicians
6. Software, platform and hardware architects

4 and 5 interfere with 1, 2, 6 and 3. Unlike in the case of NASA, there are more than hundreds of players providing (6); and they are answerable to their shareholders unlike NASA.

It is a complex social problem. To suppose that it is a mere technical and managerial challenge is a flawed assumption.

Re:Technology cannot (easily) fix social problems. (1)

CanHasDIY (1672858) | about a year ago | (#45258579)

Putting a rocket on the moon is a purely technical problem; nothing social or political about it. Automating the healthcare industry involves several players:

1. The care givers
2. The care receivers
3. The insurance agents
4. Lawyers
5. Politicians
6. Software, platform and hardware architects

Unlike in the case of NASA, there are more than hundreds of players providing (6);

Don't you mean 'more than hundreds of players providing (3)?'

I'm going to assume that. Makes more sense.

Then where will the crony payoffs come in? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#45258385)

Those 800 pages were so Democratic congressmen could write payoffs and exemptions for every single one of their interest groups into law.

It's obvious from the way the bill was written that health care for the poor was a less important goal than, say, forcing Catholics to pay for abortions.

Re:Then where will the crony payoffs come in? (1)

Conspiracy_Of_Doves (236787) | about a year ago | (#45258453)

You're a fool if you think that Republicans don't do the exact same thing.

Simple Answer... (3, Funny)

Andrewkov (140579) | about a year ago | (#45258389)

Simple answer, web developement is harder than rocket science!

Ummm... (5, Insightful)

fuzzyfuzzyfungus (1223518) | about a year ago | (#45258401)

Just for the sake of perspective, 'big government' didn't "just put a man on the moon", it was an iterative process going all the way back to the experience of the Nazi war criminals we hastily whitewashed, up through a variety of incremental improvements and test designs (along with various accidents, some fatal), until we get to the Apollo missions that everyone actually remembers (and some of those had Issues as well).

Apollo 1 didn't, exactly go so hot(well, it actually went pretty hot indeed), and at least 5 others were killed in jet-based training.

Gemini 8 almost went rather badly, Apollo 12 was struck by lighting, Apollo 13's multiple issues are well known, Apollo 15 had parachute problems.

An assortment of workers and techs have also snuffed it in ground based accidents while working on space launch hardware.

This is not to say that the rolllout was a success (it wasn't); but website launch failures are pretty boring as failure goes, everyone from small-business intranets up to major web companies seems to fuck them up on occasion. The bigger question will be time-to-fix. To use TFA's own analogy, you could have written "Why can't big government launch a rocket?" when Apollo 1 rather embarassingly caught fire on the ground, reducing the entire crew to charred corpses, because it had been filled with pure oxygen and improperly passivated. As we now know, they can, just not on the first try.

Gov. Purchasing is the Real Problem (5, Informative)

heavyion (883530) | about a year ago | (#45258409)

As a federal worker I can tell you that trying to buy something for government use is an extremely byzantine process. An example, if I need to buy a monitor cable, I have to fill out 3 forms (one of them is 14 pages), get four _independent_ approvals, quotes (yes... quotes for a monitor cable), and then follow the documents to make sure nothing gets messed-up along the way. I have to do this for _any_ piece of equipment that is in any way related to information technology. I don't want to describe the process for anything requiring a contract and I can't imagine the amount of work that went into writing the requirements document for a project involving 55 (55!) contracting agencies. The REAL PROBLEM here is the desperate need for contract and purchasing reform in the federal government.

Gene Kranz and Tiger Teams at NASA (1)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#45258447)

I've had the priviledge to listen to Gene Kranz [] (the mission controller who got Apollo 13 back home) talk about the amazing leadership qualities that the tiger teams had at NASA. He was delivering the keynote at Surge - a conference talking about scaling of computer systems - and the attendees were highly appreciative what Gene Kranz had to say and teach them.

Gene Kranz stressed it was about teamwork, trust and empowerment. He stated many times how these were young men - early twenties - who were charged with making these life and death decisions and were supported across the board. Politicians were not allowed to influence these decisions - it was these tiger team leaders who were fully empowered and allowed to do whatever it took. He talked about trust, and how the team knew that the person in charge had the training to make the call in any situation and that once a decision had been made they would back it.

This seems to be the exact opposite of what has happened with these healthcare websites.

We'd Still have.. (1)

g0bshiTe (596213) | about a year ago | (#45258487)

All our old health care.

Those without would still be going to ER's for treatment and not paying as usual. Those with insurance would still have their coverage and more of the money they earn in their pockets.

Instead we are left with a dysfunctional presidential legacy.

Government Agency (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#45258493)

Your metaphor is off:

Imagine if President Obama had stated, 'I believe the nation should commit itself to the goal of enabling all Americans to access affordable health insurance' but then left the how to do it to some of the best experts in health care and economics without partisan interference."

Rhetoric aside, it was more along the lines of, "NASA will put a man on the moon."

NASA was given both the responsibility and the authority to do it. This is NOT the case with the healthcare initiative.

so it must be broken. (1)

nimbius (983462) | about a year ago | (#45258503)

i know this starts rather offtopic but bear with me. Glen Reynolds is a self described "libertarian transhumanist."
libertarian transhumanists are unwittingly appropriating the theoretical legacy of Stalinist communism by substituting, among other concepts, the âoevanguard partyâ with the âoedigeratiâ, and the âoenew Soviet manâ with the âoeposthuman.â getting a brow-beating on healthcare reform from a man who loathes the human body as a 'meat puppet.' is like getting oracle support from a guy who thinks relational databases are a fad.

Name a website, any site, that was anticipated to have 50k simultaneous views at its inception that later managed to stand up to 250k hits (an obvious 5 fold increase.) without a performance impact. []
"These bugs were functions of volume,'' Park said. "Take away the volume and it works.'' so essentially we've identified the common problem of most web-based services which is scalability. we're fixing it, and thats part of the software development lifecycle.

what no ones talking about is conservatives propensity to blow issues, be they real or imagined, entirely out of proportion when it comes to healthcare reform. saying the entire healthcare reform act is broken because the website is slow and unresponsive, is like saying the entire fucking iphone is broken because facetime is slow and unresponsive. Granted with the absolutely academic grasp of technology weilded by most conservative republicans its not hard to see where they might have problems drawing this distinction.

Simple website?! (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#45258509)

Lost interest in the analysis as soon as I saw that...

Easy as 1, 2, 3. (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#45258527)

1. Undefined requirements.
2. Unreasonable deadlines.
3. Continuing changing requirements and priorities.

I have to deal with this every single day. When a project doesn't work because we, the contractors, cannot perform a one week test in a single day the client/government gets mad, considers us a failure, we move to the next number 1 project (which is usually 3 or 4 because they cannot make up their mind), and repeat.

Unique Problem (1)

WankersRevenge (452399) | about a year ago | (#45258545)

It's a unique problem combined with poor assumptions on the part administration. Had the majority of states agreed to run their own exchanges, this problem wouldn't be so exaggerated. Instead, thirty five states opted to let the federal government run the show. The administration did not plan for this.

So in essence, the federal government had to build a site that not only takes federal guideline but individual state guidelines into consideration while building a high traffic infrastructure that is essentially accessing systems not designed for such load. Mind you, last year states were given a November 15th deadline to setup their exchange with some states given an extension. That's less than a year to build this system, overseen by some legislators who are doing everything possible to prevent the law from moving forward.

I'm frankly surprised it launched at all.

Now ... I think the jury's out if they can fix this in a month, but good to luck to them on that front. I think the administration is being optimistic that all will be fixed by the end of next month, but regardless, these issues will be forgotten in time.

Government success: DNSSEC (2)

ptudor (22537) | about a year ago | (#45258547)

The headline could do without that loaded word "big" and the connotations it brings. An easy counterpoint is DNSSEC: The entire dotgov TLD has had DNSSEC deployed for years in stark contrast to the adoption rate among the general population. Complex projects in technology are not all alike.

Political problems are harder (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#45258565)

Yes, even the space program had a political component, but ACA is all about politics and money - the money of individuals, hospitals, doctors, insurance companies, and medical equipment companies, not just the taxpayers'.

There's no quick, brilliant answer to a messy political problem.

Some perspective is needed (5, Insightful)

ErichTheRed (39327) | about a year ago | (#45258573)

Everyone looking to immediately blame this on government should think about what's involved and what probably happened:

1. The contract went to the lowest bidder and/or the firm that could do the most backroom political deals to win. This is not necessarily the team you want doing the work, nor are they necessarily the most capable.
2. It's a huge, monster systems integration challenge. There are probably thousands of XML data brokers, enterprise service buses, web services libraries, and wrappers of wrappers of wrappers of abstraction layers to get the exchange, the insurance companies, the tax records systems used for eligibility verification, the authentication, etc etc etc talking to each other. This is one of the things I do for work on various big systems projects, and it's hard when you have a competent team. When you're dealing with the "offshore delivery centers" of the firm in Point #1 above, it's an absolute nightmare.
3. Every outsourcing contract, public or private sector suffers from the same problem -- it's always more expensive, and the people involved don't have any incentive beyond a paycheck to see it work. I've seen that happen all the time as an FTE in companies overrun by consultants. The consultants don't care what happens as long as they're billing time. If they deliver garbage, so be it, as long as it can be shown that it does what the contract says it does.
4. Continuing with the "don't care" theme, there's also no incentive for the contractor to get it right the first time. Even contracts with penalties for failure or missed dates aren't a big deal because they can bill way more cleaning up the mess they made.
5. I'm sure the "outsourcing partners" weren't forthcoming when the RFP was put out and they saw red flags. Some outsourcers like to trap the customer and have them think everything's sorted, when there's really a huge problem with design/specs/whatever that will mean a very expensive rewrite later on.
6. Any project with a huge red target date on the calendar that is not flexible is doomed to failure. Problems like this lead to stupid things that PMs do like stuff more people onto a late piece of the project where it clearly doesn't help, and it leads to people taking shortcuts to rush it out the door.
7. There was probably immense cost pressure, not from the gov't itself, but from the outsourcer trying to squeeze every nickel out of the deal, and so it probably runs on half the hardware it needs, and has no DR facilities.
8. It was probably slapped together by hundreds of 24 year old new graduate business analysts, hundreds of 30 year old PMs, and thousands of offshore resources of dubious quality. Look at pretty much any bespoke line of business web application you have to use for your job. Chances are you hate it and it has maddening bugs that make it hard to live with. Now take that same code quality and put it in front of Joe Average, and I'm not surprised people are complaining.

I honestly think they should have done this in-house with supplemental hired gun contractors for the areas they needed it in. Despite the stories, I'm sure working for a government agency has its advantages. I would think that people (myself included) would welcome a more stable employment environment (at the expense of salary,) a stable retirement system, and the ability to work on a critical system that affects people's daily lives. The problem is that people see IT people getting rich at Google/Facebook/Latest Social Media Startup and think that they're going to be the next one to make the big time. Reality is that most people are mediocre coders/IT people and they're never going to get a big payday supporting the current IT employment model we have.

Also, this entire mess would have been avoided by extending Medicare benefits to everyone. Doctors would be happy because they would get paid without questions from insurers, patients would be happy because they wouldn't have to deal with insurance companies -- the only people who wouldn't be happy are insurance companies, which is why we have the system we have now. Seriously, the Medicare system processes payments for doctors with very little difficulty -- because we have the insurance companies involved, we had to build a completely new system.

Wishful thinking (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#45258585)

Imagine if President Obama had stated, 'I believe the nation should commit itself to the goal of enabling all Americans to access affordable health insurance' but then left the how to do it to some of the best experts in health care and economics without partisan interference.

Great job making it look like the President can introduce legislation like the Affordable Care Act. In reality the health insurance bill that created the website is a political frankenstein built by the Republicans as a joke and then buried never to see the light of day. It was revived by crazed Democrats desperate to get something that people across the aisle would vote on (IT'S ALIVE!) and what ultimately got signed into law is a monster that should not exist.

What I think you're suggesting should have happened is that Obama could have simply pushed for Congress to give the Secretary of Health broader powers to regulate healthcare, and then give that poor sap the mandate to unify (in the next ten years) the country's healthcare systems into one broad state-managed-but-federally-accountable program that would work like flood insurance--not required, but a good idea to sign up for. In which case the Republicans would have stuck their fingers in their ears and started screaming "SOCIALISM!" and the Democrats would start complaining that it doesn't go far enough.

You just can't win.

No-bid cronyism (0)

biggaijin (126513) | about a year ago | (#45258589)

The moon shots were not managed by an old school friend of Michelle's who got a no-bid contract.

Big Government CAN'T put a man on the moon (1)

EmagGeek (574360) | about a year ago | (#45258599)

Subject says it all. Our government does not currently possess the capability of putting a man in space, let alone putting a man on the moon.

Private industry is close to making space travel routine, but government just can't do it, because it is too focused on other things, and tends to pollute science missions with political bias.

"Let's put a man on the moon! No wait, should it be a man, or a woman? Should it be someone who is best suited for it, or someone who is politically connected? What color should their skin be? Should the vehicle be built by the best capable company, or should we focus more on the diversity makeup of the company's employees, and whether the company is owned by a minority person?" etc etc...

Government is paralyzed by the Political Correctness movement.

Quite the contrary (1)

DerekLyons (302214) | about a year ago | (#45258613)

From TFA [] :

The wondrous thing about the Apollo program is that while big government, that deservedly maligned institution, provided the resources, it was not run as a bureaucratic, big government program.

A couple of years back I came across a document from the late 1960's outlining the processes for determining if an item could be, and then should be, carried in the crew cabin... the flow chart giving a high level overview of the process alone covered a three page foldout. The rest of the document (a high level overview remember) ran almost a hundred pages. ( I suspect that if I had all the references listed at the end printed out, as it would have been back in the day, it would have filled a good sized shelf.) IIRC, there were over a dozen major Offices, Boards, and contractors involved in setting and certifying the requirements, overseeing the procurement, documenting the item, testing the item, ensuring it met the specs, ensuring it was on all the relevant drawings, ensuring it was in the appropriate training syllabuses, etc... etc...
I've studied many NASA internal documents of the era, and they all point to what any competent space historian knows well - the management and bureaucracy of the Apollo program was mind numbingly complicated. In fact, pretty much all of the paperwork, management, etc... that people blame for the failure of the Shuttle originates in the Apollo era.

Because... (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#45258623)

little governments (states) didn't setup their own.

And in other news.... (1)

LoRdTAW (99712) | about a year ago | (#45258633)

Red tape impedes development. Film at eleven.

Apollo 11 worked because: (1)

char70ger (1234672) | about a year ago | (#45258651)

Government mostly got out of the way and let it happen. When this place called The United States of America is alowed to run unrestrianed amazing things happen and most always for the best. Get the best a brightest and let them do their thing but don't tie their hands. That is the way our federal government is support to work, be there to support not to dictate, protect, not overpower. Set a goal for the nation and then watch it happen, force an idea on this nation and watch it become so mired in so much red tape it will never function correctly.
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