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White House Reportedly Dismissing Key Healthcare.gov Contractor

Soulskill posted about 10 months ago | from the assigning-blame dept.

News 284

Nerval's Lobster writes "Months after a problem-riddled rollout of the Healthcare.gov Website, the White House is dismissing a key contractor, CGI Federal, that built much of the portal, according to The Washington Post. The newspaper suggested the federal government is on the verge of signing a new contract with a replacement, Accenture, which has some experience in building online health-insurance portals on the state level. 'We are in discussions with potential clients all the time but it is not appropriate to discuss with the media contracts we may or may not be discussing,' an Accenture spokesperson is quoted as saying. Unnamed sources 'familiar with the matter' informed the Post of CGI Federal's dismissal, and suggested that it has much to do with continuing anger over the botched introduction of Healthcare.gov, as well as the pace of continuing repairs to the Website. As their contract is due to expire anyway at the end of February, government officials reportedly decided that it was the perfect time to pull the plug with a minimum of legal ramifications."

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Accenture? (5, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | about 10 months ago | (#45919797)

Holy fucking shit we're fucked.

Re:Accenture? (5, Informative)

Penguinisto (415985) | about 10 months ago | (#45919921)

No shit. [computerworld.com]

(...wait, let me guess - they'll want to move the whole damned thing to an IIS platform too, right?)

Re:Accenture? (4, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | about 10 months ago | (#45919991)

There is nothing wrong with the IIS platform. Accenture is the issue. The vast majority of their PM team cannot find their dick with both hands.

Re:Accenture? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 10 months ago | (#45920105)

There is nothing wrong - in case you enjoy trowing money down the toilet.

Re:Accenture? (5, Informative)

Penguinisto (415985) | about 10 months ago | (#45920115)

There is nothing wrong with the IIS platform. Accenture is the issue. The vast majority of their PM team cannot find their dick with both hands.

Never said it was wrong or right - but it's a common trick with large contractors to declare your existing platform obsolete, insecure, or underpowered, and (after you signed the contract) demand that you shove over to their preferred platform. Of course, they'll point to some esoteric half-hidden legalese thing in the contract that your non-tech legal department completely glossed over, and you never got to see.

This means they get extra money, more time to ETA, and they move you to whatever they're more comfortable with. It also has the danger of locking you in even tighter come the next contract renewal.

Re:Accenture? (1)

ShanghaiBill (739463) | about 10 months ago | (#45920241)

There is nothing wrong with the IIS platform.

What plausible reason could there be for moving a project to IIS? Does IIS have any advantages over free alternatives?

Re:Accenture? (1)

Anonymous Coward | about 10 months ago | (#45920371)

That depends on your requirements. If you want to build everything in .Net or if you have single signon requirements on an intranet with everyone using internet explorer, it's a pretty easy choice. If you're building a robust website accessed by a few million people, I'm not sure I'd go for it :)

Re:Accenture? (5, Interesting)

gstoddart (321705) | about 10 months ago | (#45920527)

What plausible reason could there be for moving a project to IIS? Does IIS have any advantages over free alternatives?

Clearly, you've not dealt with companies who have built their world around a specific technology before.

Those companies tend to be like hammer-makers -- they view everything as a problem to be solved with a hammer.

We once had a manger (well, briefly, he was someone's drinking buddy) who was a huge RDB ER-diagram nut.

Now, our system wasn't an RDB, and was never going to be. In fact, it was nothing at all like an RDB. But, he insisted on making reams of meaningless ER-diagrams which had nothing at all to do with the system.

We repeatedly told him his diagrams had nothing to do with our system, and that there was no point in creating ER-diagrams that didn't apply, and that we were not going to use them because they were meaningless. He continued to insist that the only workable way to describe what we were doing was with an ER-diagram, and continued to produce even more. Of course, since the ER-diagrams were meaningless, they neither described the system as it existed, nor as it was supposed to be.

Eventually, his pretty little models were demonstrated to be pure fantasy, completely unrelated to the software at hand, and mostly just something he did to make it look like he was productive. And, to top it off, they were done in software he owned a copy of, but the company didn't -- which means nobody but him could do anything with them besides look at them and wonder what they were for.

Someone finally understood what the developers had been saying for a while, and realized that not only was this guy not helping us get anything done, he was giving the ER diagrams to the client, who were then asking "what is this, and how does it relate to what we have". Eventually management realized what was happening, and got rid of him.

It really isn't uncommon for someone to come in and more or less say "I consider myself an expert in X, and you are using Y, therefore in my professional opinion you need to start using X".

It has nothing at all to do with the specific needs, or even the problem at hand. But it's what they know, and what they think everyone should be using.

Re:Accenture? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 10 months ago | (#45920119)

The problem is the fact that they went with a RDBMS more suitable for storing cat pictures and caches than something that had transaction protection. Same reason you don't use a garbage truck as a courier for large amounts of documents as opposed to a van with boxes.

Yes, MarkLogic states ACID compliance, but it would be nice to see some business cases. Plus, by design, NoSQL is highly dependant on the backend application. If the app crashes, there can be major damage to records. Again, no transactions, so there is no proof that what was done was completed or rolled back.

Plus, XML is great for one task... but a highly sensitive medical and financial undertaking should have gone on more proven iron, be it Oracle, DB/2, MS SQL Server, or even Sybase. Not a product that was unknown to most people until it was used for this job.

Re:Accenture? (0)

Tool Man (9826) | about 10 months ago | (#45920461)

Great parody site: http://accidenture.com/ [accidenture.com]

Re:Accenture? (5, Informative)

msobkow (48369) | about 10 months ago | (#45919939)

No kidding. Accenture is one of the worst money-grabbing providers out there. They bring in the "top tech talent" for the initial meetings, then bill you the same rates for a horde of junior incompetents, and you never see that senior talent again.

Re:Accenture? (4, Insightful)

gstoddart (321705) | about 10 months ago | (#45920041)

They bring in the "top tech talent" for the initial meetings, then bill you the same rates for a horde of junior incompetents, and you never see that senior talent again.

But, really, do you see this as different from any IT organization/software company you've dealt with?

The early enthusiasm and usefulness drops off pretty quick once the deal is signed and the sales guys get their commission checks.

And then you have the people wondering how the hell to implement a flying car and deliver on the unicorns which were promised by the sales guys.

I've certainly been on the receiving end of this from Oracle and a few others.

The problem is the people who chase the deals and carefully craft the responses to make it look like you've solved the problem. In a lot of cases, it's basically a shell game.

Re:Accenture? (1)

Anonymous Coward | about 10 months ago | (#45920259)

But, really, do you see this as different from any IT organization/software company you've dealt with?

The one I deal with is completely different... but then again I interviewed and hired each employee individually.

Oh wait, you meant outsourced IT organization.

Re:Accenture? (1)

neoritter (3021561) | about 10 months ago | (#45920587)

Generally with government contracts the individual employee resumes are submitted to the government for final approval. If you're a sub to a prime then the prime also vets your resume (sometimes they interview you).

Re:Accenture? (3, Insightful)

phantomfive (622387) | about 10 months ago | (#45920333)

Accenture might actually deliver the "top tech talent," at least for the first year. They would be foolish not to, with such a high-profile (and expensive!) contract on the line.

Re:Accenture? (3, Informative)

Capt.DrumkenBum (1173011) | about 10 months ago | (#45920025)

I have never known Accenture to do anything successfully. I worked for a company a few years ago that brought Accenture in to take over running their IT. It was supposed to speed up issue resolution, make experts available, and be less expensive.
No, no, and NO! Plus they used getting this as a way to get their foot in the door, and then got their people into everything they could. The company is slowly failing.
I went out and celebrated the day I got my layoff.

Should've asked Bezos and Amazon. (1)

Andy Prough (2730467) | about 10 months ago | (#45920167)

Healthcare via personal drone to your front door. At least they know how to create an online market.

Re:Accenture? (5, Informative)

Billly Gates (198444) | about 10 months ago | (#45920209)

Could be worse.

If you think Accenture are incompetent vandals try to get anything done with IBM?

They charge so much for the tiniest things and then call me about jobs to admin these systems for $24,000 a year. No I am seriously not exaggerating that either as they wanted to pay me $12/hr for a millions of dollar contracts for such systems.

Great value these poor schmucks are getting for that price.

Re:Accenture? (3, Insightful)

fbumg (632974) | about 10 months ago | (#45920421)

I can only speak from personal experience, but to me the big difference is that IBM is at least technically competent. I guess as an opponent of Obamacare I should be happy, as this will undoubtedly allow the problems to continue. But I feel for the people that may be depending/hoping for this to come together. Accenture? Really?

Re:Accenture? (1)

Billly Gates (198444) | about 10 months ago | (#45920543)

Well for $12/hr you wont find anyone outside of some college student and geeksquad guys.

Bare in mind under the law people get penalized for not signing up for the expensive insurance so having it not work means you force poor people to be fined.

Re:Accenture? (1)

Anonymous Coward | about 10 months ago | (#45920217)

Accenture, which has some experience ...

Accenture?

why don't they just bypass the middleman and just hire Indians directly?!

Re:Accenture? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 10 months ago | (#45920545)

Pronounced "Ass Enter".

Accenture does a fairly good job. (5, Funny)

Anonymous Coward | about 10 months ago | (#45919825)

Accenture does a fairly good job with contract development and support. This doesn't seem to be a bad call.

Re:Accenture does a fairly good job. (0, Offtopic)

Anonymous Coward | about 10 months ago | (#45919963)

Which is inappropriate, the post or the mod?

Re:Accenture does a fairly good job. (4, Funny)

Penguinisto (415985) | about 10 months ago | (#45920003)

I think the mod meant to give it a +1 YouGottaBeShittingMe, but forgot that Slashdot doesn't have that in the options.

Re:Accenture does a fairly good job. (2)

St.Creed (853824) | about 10 months ago | (#45920407)

It could've also meant to be a +2 Hilarious! but I haven't seen that either :)

We all know what this means..... (3, Insightful)

3seas (184403) | about 10 months ago | (#45919837)

You can add another 9 months or more to allow whatever new contractor to take over the code base or start anew. And by the time, if ever, it is fully functional we can be sure the direction will have changed again.

What I'd like to know is which taxpayers agreed on spending their taxes on this? The only citizens I found supporting this are those who do not pay income taxes.

Re:We all know what this means..... (4, Insightful)

buswolley (591500) | about 10 months ago | (#45919903)

Taxes don't pay for Federal expenditures. That is a fallacy that is all too common.

Re:We all know what this means..... (2)

OffTheLip (636691) | about 10 months ago | (#45920005)

I guess the Department of the Treasury just prints the money they need, right?

Re:We all know what this means..... (1)

Anonymous Coward | about 10 months ago | (#45920579)

> I guess the Department of the Treasury just prints the money they need, right?

The Federal Reserve gives the Treasury 0 interest loans (aka Quantitative Easing). Yes.

Re:We all know what this means..... (3, Funny)

RandomFactor (22447) | about 10 months ago | (#45920021)

Ok.... so, what does, our children?

Re:We all know what this means..... (4, Funny)

Grishnakh (216268) | about 10 months ago | (#45920121)

No, other peoples' children. This is Slashdot, remember, the home of single basement-dwelling neckbeards.

Re:We all know what this means..... (1, Troll)

Jason Levine (196982) | about 10 months ago | (#45920309)

Married Slashdotter with kids and my own house (within which I do not live in the basement) here.

I love the sound of stereotypes smashing to pieces.

Re:We all know what this means..... (2, Informative)

Anonymous Coward | about 10 months ago | (#45920207)

Yes and not really.
Yes: everything is being paid for by government issued bonds and similar forms of federal debt.

Not really: while bonds do have a cash-in date, the number of bonds issued each year increases by significantly more than the needed payout.

There's also some very interesting accounting that a large portion of the federal debt is in bonds owned by the federal government ("I owe me" is apparently a viable trick if no one is ever recognized as having sufficient standing to oversee the books)

Re:We all know what this means..... (1)

Coolhand2120 (1001761) | about 10 months ago | (#45920147)

Good to know! I guess I can stop paying my federal income tax then!

Re:We all know what this means..... (5, Informative)

danlip (737336) | about 10 months ago | (#45920069)

Accenture already did the California implementation. And they've already had time to work out the problem. Hopefully they wrote that code so it could easily be reused for the federal site (since it is Accenture, that may be a slim hope).

Re:We all know what this means..... (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 10 months ago | (#45920125)

+1 RoseColoredGlasses

Re:We all know what this means..... (2)

dunezone (899268) | about 10 months ago | (#45920109)

What I'd like to know is which taxpayers agreed on spending their taxes on this? The only citizens I found supporting this are those who do not pay income taxes.

Technically the 65,915,796 residents who voted for Obama in the 2012 election?

Re:We all know what this means..... (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 10 months ago | (#45920193)

Technically the 65,915,796 residents who voted for Obama in the 2012 election?

Most of them were trying to keep Romney out of the White House.

Re:We all know what this means..... (1, Informative)

Dahamma (304068) | about 10 months ago | (#45920247)

Technically the 65,915,796 residents who voted for Obama in the 2012 election?

And, as it turns out, many Republicans as well - they are just too ignorant of the actual ACA or brainwashed by their party leaders to realize they support most of the major provisions...

http://articles.latimes.com/2013/oct/01/business/la-fi-mh-obamacare-20131001 [latimes.com]

Re:We all know what this means..... (0, Flamebait)

Anonymous Coward | about 10 months ago | (#45920599)

What I'd like to know is which taxpayers agreed on spending their taxes on this? The only citizens I found supporting this are those who do not pay income taxes.

Technically the 65,915,796 residents who voted for Obama in the 2012 election?

You're both talking about the same group of people for the most part.

Obama's a class-warfare-promoting, divisive, INCOMPETENT [zerohedge.com] failure.

Don't think Obama's incompetent? Yeah, right, it's BOOOOSH'S fault labor force participation has fallen 4% since Obumbles took office.

But boy does he take care of his big money buddies on Wall Street and propagandists in Hollywood.

Re:We all know what this means..... (1)

Anonymous Coward | about 10 months ago | (#45920127)

You don't have a voice in the new world order. Just sit down and shut up, peasant. Don't make us say this twice.

-The United States Federal Government.

What Do You Want To Bet? (1)

sycodon (149926) | about 10 months ago | (#45920265)

$20 says that there will be source code not passed along, requiring reverse engineering or rewrites.

If I'm wrong, you'll have to see my ex because she has all my money.

Re:We all know what this means..... (-1)

Anonymous Coward | about 10 months ago | (#45920401)

What I'd like to know is which taxpayers agreed on spending their taxes on this? The only citizens I found supporting this are those who do not pay income taxes.

I'd like to know which taxpayers agreed on spending money for the Iraq War, the Afghanistan War, the latest Aircraft Carrier, the boondoggle in purchasing the F-35, the F-22, and the replacement for the M16.

Yeah, wait, we don't do things like that.

they just got fired by the eu health principals (1)

Anonymous Coward | about 10 months ago | (#45919841)

so they are looking for work anderson something they were called before the last larceny trial

Hmmm ... (5, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | about 10 months ago | (#45919847)

And the next question is will these guys do any better?

I've been involved in contracting with governments, and failures of projects are as often as not caused by the incompetence of the government people and their inability to understand what they want, but then blamed on the contractors who couldn't make the system do what it needed.

As is always the case, some times the devil is in the details, and just because the project failed, doesn't mean the people blamed for it actually were the ones who made the project fail.

Sometimes, it just means it's easier to blame the contractor, when in fact the client was completely inept.

Re:Hmmm ... (1)

AK Marc (707885) | about 10 months ago | (#45920141)

A contractor dealing with the government knows what they are getting into, or is incompetent in dealing with the government. If they can't deliver, then that is their fault. Part of requirements gathering is inferring unstated requirements. If you are too incompetent to "find" all the requirements, you shouldn't be developing.

Re:Hmmm ... (3, Insightful)

Penguinisto (415985) | about 10 months ago | (#45920143)

You are correct, but hiring a contractor with some rather spectacular failures (and numerous smaller ones) isn't exactly going to fix that...

Re:Hmmm ... (2)

gstoddart (321705) | about 10 months ago | (#45920343)

You are correct, but hiring a contractor with some rather spectacular failures (and numerous smaller ones) isn't exactly going to fix that...

Name me ONE contractor who has never had any failures, spectacular otherwise.

Because I'm betting a lot of companies would love to engage them (if they exist).

I've seen epic fails from IBM, Microsoft, Oracle, Sun and a fair few others.

Hell, I was on a project once that had 11 PMs, 8 managers/Directors, coming from 5 different entities (3 of which were fully-owned divisions of a single parent entity), and fewer than 6-10 people doing most of the technical work.

The PMs and stakeholders spent so much time fighting one another that it was completely impossible to not fail. Most of our status meetings were spent trying to get the PMs to agree on anything, and then recapping stuff for them -- because they didn't communicate among themselves at any other time, and they all had their own agenda to carve out or protect their little fiefdoms.

When you have more managers, stakeholders, and PMs than you do people with 'boots on the ground', this is a predictable outcome.

When every decision becomes a re-hash of every previous decision (and frequent attempts to redesign the whole thing based on someone's pet technology), you never get anything done.

You just end up drowning in a process mired in itself, and incapable of moving forward. And often, it's the client and the stakeholders who make that happen.

Re:Hmmm ... (3, Insightful)

CubicleZombie (2590497) | about 10 months ago | (#45920299)

Sometimes, it just means it's easier to blame the contractor, when in fact the client was completely inept.

Think about the worst requirements you've ever had to deal with. Now imagine 2700 pages of even worse requirements written by CONGRESS. Then throw Obama in the mix, issuing Executive Orders that change the system at every turn.

Why not? (3, Funny)

Anonymous Coward | about 10 months ago | (#45919849)

CGI has already received their $678 million dollars. Let's throw some more money at it to see if someone else can fix it now.

Re:Why not? (2)

Mitreya (579078) | about 10 months ago | (#45920255)

CGI has already received their $678 million dollars.

Right, how about the government sues CGI for $678+damages? That would free up some funds to pay the next contractor. Or is that too many "legal ramifications"?

Re:Why not? (1)

St.Creed (853824) | about 10 months ago | (#45920449)

CGI probably has documentation on a large number of pretty bad decisions by the officials involved, so I doubt they'd lose the case.

Re:Why not? (1)

PolygamousRanchKid (1290638) | about 10 months ago | (#45920483)

CGI has already received their $678 million dollars.

For that money, the government could have bought half a Watson from IBM!

Actually, I was thinking that healthcare.gov could have been crowd-sourced by a series of questions on Stackoverflow, and just cut and pasting the answers. It wouldn't have been any worse than what CGI produced.

Obamacare says that my life is substandard, but I'd like to keep it anyway.

Now I'm not IT expert... (3, Insightful)

Noishkel (3464121) | about 10 months ago | (#45919875)

... but I don't think firing everyone in charge of a massive project does a lot of good when it you're trying to make it work.

Re:Now I'm not IT expert... (3, Insightful)

gstoddart (321705) | about 10 months ago | (#45919959)

... but I don't think firing everyone in charge of a massive project does a lot of good when it you're trying to make it work.

No, but it gives the impression that you're Trying to Fix It.

My question is "how much will change?" How much of this can be laid at the feet of the contractor, and how much was more of a symptom of the inability of the feds to handle the project? Because I've dealt with clients who essentially made a successful project impossible, and then groused when they didn't get a successful project (as if we could force them to do what was needed, but they ignored or failed to actually do).

I don't always assume that just because they say "it was all their fault" that it was actually the case. Sometimes, it's people covering their own asses making the claim.

Most especially where governments are concerned.

Re:Now I'm not IT expert... (2)

Archangel Michael (180766) | about 10 months ago | (#45920049)

No, firing incompetent people in charge of a massive project is the right thing to do. The problem is, this particular project was doomed to fail, because of the scope and every pissant congress critter and political hack that had to add their $.02 worth.

What is needed is "the duck", so that each idiot involved can have a say that doesn't really affect the end result.

http://www.codinghorror.com/blog/2012/07/new-programming-jargon.html [codinghorror.com] -- See #5

Backend hasn't been implemented yet ... (1)

perpenso (1613749) | about 10 months ago | (#45920077)

... but I don't think firing everyone in charge of a massive project does a lot of good when it you're trying to make it work.

Supposedly only the front end is implemented, the web site that citizens use. The backend, the part that coordinates the various federal agencies and insurance companies involved, does the billing, etc has not been implemented yet.

If so it may not matter so much who implements the backend, the original contractor or the new.

knee jerk (1)

buswolley (591500) | about 10 months ago | (#45919883)

First 6 posts are knee jerk reactions.

Re:knee jerk (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 10 months ago | (#45919913)

Is your post because you're aware of any federal government projects or programs that have been run efficiently and effectively? If so, please share. I've yet to find one.

Re:knee jerk (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 10 months ago | (#45919985)

Next comment is a partisan shill.

Re:knee jerk (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 10 months ago | (#45920095)

This wouldn't have happened if the project hadn't been undermined from the inside by Tories in disguise. I'd tell you more about the conspiracy, but I don't want to let them know how much I know.

Re:knee jerk (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 10 months ago | (#45920081)

Apollo. But do tell, show me the privately funded successful manned Moon return mission.

Re:knee jerk (1)

cogeek (2425448) | about 10 months ago | (#45920563)

No privately funded manned missions because the UN has declared the moon as no-man's land. Can't mine it, can't own it, why would private industry go?

Re:knee jerk (1)

Grishnakh (216268) | about 10 months ago | (#45920173)

The USPS works fairly well actually.

Also, NASA worked pretty well back during the Apollo days, before the military came in with their idiotic requirements that led to the overpriced debacle that was the Space Shuttle (and even there, NASA worked fairly well with the requirements they were given). They're still doing great science now, even though their budget is tiny.

That's about all I can think of. Basically, the more autonomous and separated the agency is from any politicians, the better it works. If it's directly managed by politicians, it's going to be a total clusterfuck.

Re:knee jerk (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 10 months ago | (#45920311)

The single payer system's website would have been completed long ago.

Not just the government. (3, Interesting)

Anonymous Coward | about 10 months ago | (#45919901)

It's not just the federal government (healthcare.gov) that's fucked this up; state exchanges (like Covered California, supposedly on the forefront of things, to say nothing of Oregon's health exchange, who, to put it kindly, isn't at the top of the heap) have also fucked this up.

But it's not just the governments that have fucked this up. The private insurers [dailykos.com] have fucked this up beyond all recognition. Anthem's web-based payment system was unable to accept payments during the last week of December. Customers who signed up weeks before the deadline weren't billed until the new year [dailykos.com] . Multi-hour wait times for humans have resulted in Anthem's CA PR-bot being inundated with complaints. [twitter.com]

You don't have insurance until you actually pay [kaiserhealthnews.org] . This is difficult when the insurance company itself refuses to accept payment.

It may actually be the government ... (1)

perpenso (1613749) | about 10 months ago | (#45920145)

You don't have insurance until you actually pay. This is difficult when the insurance company itself refuses to accept payment.

In some cases it may still be the government's fault. If the government has not communicated to the insurance company what that person's subsidy is the insurance company would not know what to charge the person.

Re:Not just the government. (3, Interesting)

Jason Levine (196982) | about 10 months ago | (#45920351)

I tried New York's system and it kept insisting that I wasn't a real person. This was after I entered in personal information which, as the victim of identity theft, made me very uncomfortable entering into an online form (Social Security number, date of birth, etc) but that I rationalized was needed for this process. I did eventually get in, but via a roundabout way that involved signing up for an account with the DMV. Don't ask me what the DMV has to do with health care (beyond using the same login schema).

Re:Not just the government. (1)

phantomfive (622387) | about 10 months ago | (#45920363)

But it's not just the governments that have fucked this up. The private insurers [dailykos.com] have fucked this up beyond all recognition. Anthem's web-based payment system was unable to accept payments during the last week of December. Customers who signed up weeks before the deadline weren't billed until the new year [dailykos.com]. Multi-hour wait times for humans have resulted in Anthem's CA PR-bot being inundated with complaints. [twitter.com]

Seriously? You're blaming private insurers for this?

This is a PR move. (4, Insightful)

EMG at MU (1194965) | about 10 months ago | (#45919951)

Who cares if they get dismissed a few weeks before their contract expired. Do they still get paid for the steaming pile of shit they created? Absolutely. Will they continue to get government contracts after this blows over? Absolutely.

This is a PR move.

Re:This is a PR move. (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 10 months ago | (#45920075)

It's absolutely a PR move. Unlike most government IT projects, there was no lead contractor for healthcare.gov. Instead, CMS chose to act as project management themselves. When contractors raised concerns, CMS told them that "failure is not an option" and that everything has to work october 1.

I'm no fan of CGI Federal, but they are a scapegoat. CMS fucked up. Rest assured that no one at CMS will be disciplined or fired over this.

Re:This is a PR move. (1)

EMG at MU (1194965) | about 10 months ago | (#45920223)

When contractors raised concerns, CMS told them that "failure is not an option" and that everything has to work october 1.

From the article linked in the summary:

Late last summer, CGI executives had expressed confidence to CMS that they could deliver a functioning, scaled-back version of the marketplace by the Oct. 1 start day. But a week before the launch, the company had failed to deliver on 45 percent of those tasks, according to documents obtained by The Washington Post.

I'm sure it was both. CMS said failure isn't an option and CGI and the rest of the contractors made really optimistic project plans.

Rest assured that no one at CMS will be disciplined or fired over this.

Resignations [cnet.com] don't count?

Re:This is a PR move. (1)

Mitreya (579078) | about 10 months ago | (#45920409)

Resignations don't count?

Not if he has a higher salary at the new place, which he probably will.

Tony Trenkle, chief information officer at the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS), sent an e-mail to co-workers on Tuesday that said he will be leaving on November 15 "to take a position in the private sector." Apparently, Trenkle's resignation isn't directly a result of the bungled Web site,

Re:This is a PR move. (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 10 months ago | (#45920179)

I agree, the sickness of it is that they still get all that money for that POS web site. I would have made them work for not a penny more and fix it. Whatever happened to standing behind your work? I guess its good work if you can get billions, design a piece of shit product and be let go. Anyone remember the $100,000 toilet seat?
This makes that look like a bargain.

Re:This is a PR move. (1)

Mitreya (579078) | about 10 months ago | (#45920337)

Do they still get paid for the steaming pile of shit they created? Absolutely. Will they continue to get government contracts after this blows over? Absolutely. This is a PR move.

It's not just a PR move.
It is also an opportunity to pay half-a-billion to another contractor next. Before hiring a 3rd contractor to do the same.

Why is this so hard (1)

pooh666 (624584) | about 10 months ago | (#45919983)

I would really like to know. I get big, I get complex, interconnections between this API and that, but frankly people do that stuff every day. Building an aircraft carrier is pretty complex too and they might go over on costs etc, but the end result seems to work pretty well. How is that doable when software projects like this seem almost doomed to fail?

Re:Why is this so hard (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 10 months ago | (#45920071)

How late do you think the first aircraft carrier was delivered? Do you think it was bugfree?

From what I see, this project is virtually unprecedented in scope, complexity, and interconnectivity, then add in an impossible to deliver date and the eyes of the world on you on deliver date.

Re:Why is this so hard (1)

judoguy (534886) | about 10 months ago | (#45920507)

How late do you think the first aircraft carrier was delivered? Do you think it was bugfree?

It ain't the first commercial web portal by a long shot. Of course it's virtually unprecedented in complexity. That's what government does best.

Folks, the problem isn't the web site. It's the abortion that the web site is supposed to implement.

Re:Why is this so hard (2)

AK Marc (707885) | about 10 months ago | (#45920201)

Because people don't think modular. A complex system is easier than a simple system with multiple I/O to other incompletely defined systems.

That, and they did it backwards. There should have been one portal per state. Whether the state or the feds built it doesn't matter. Then the fed one integrates the 50 states to give some generic information and direct signups to the state portal. If they had built 50 portals with a shared home page, they'd have done better. Then, the states that were working are integrated in the fed, and stand alone, user's choice. The states that declined to make their own get one made for them, likely similar to what they would have made.

one rule with 50 cases (a single 50-state site) is complex and doomed to failure. 50 rules with 1 case each is much easier.

People try to solve complex problems, when it's really a collection of simple problems. The problem isn't programming or development, but problem solving. Solve the problem, and the solution is easier.

Re:Why is this so hard (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 10 months ago | (#45920583)

That sounds like good advice, which I assume you read in a textbook somewhere. Because in real life that won't make it any easier; you still have just as many interfaces built by many different teams that don't talk to each other. There is no silver bullet.

Gov't skips testing orders last minute changes (3, Informative)

perpenso (1613749) | about 10 months ago | (#45920331)

From the congressional testimony, http://www.cnn.com/2013/10/24/politics/congress-obamacare-website/ [cnn.com] :

"In the first detailed account of what happened, officials of four contractors involved in the website creation described a convoluted system of multiple companies operating separately under the oversight of CMS, a part of the Department of Health and Human Services. Each said their individual components generally performed as planned after internal testing, but all conceded that CMS failed to conduct sufficient "end-to-end" testing of the entire system before the launch ... an end-to-end test conducted within two weeks of the launch caused the system to crash. She said it was up to CMS to decide on proceeding with the rollout."

"... blamed a decision by CMS within two weeks of the launch to require users to fully register in order to browse for health insurance products, instead of being able to get information anonymously, as originally planned."

The preceding should not be interpreted to mean that the contractor did good work. That may have been a problem as well. My point is that government officials were basically sabotaging their project through mismanagement. It appears that politicians were in control.

Re:Why is this so hard (3, Interesting)

bussdriver (620565) | about 10 months ago | (#45920499)

From what I've heard and read over the years, off the top of my head:

1) Software has more complexity than most everything else; big systems more so. Software can change faster and expectations change faster; it's not a machine that is going to be used for decades and needs to remain similar over that time for maintenance reasons.

2) 2 year cycles where political changes result in different pressures, demands, etc. I've heard this is a BIG problem with government projects from multiple sources. A lot of the time that new "oversight" is anything but a smokescreen for an agenda... sometimes it is intentionally to derail the process (for example, to make room to add another contractor.)

3) Moving targets! Specifications are not detailed enough and/or they change during development - especially across the 2 year political cycles. These regulations they pass can take a year just to be legally codified into enough detail to be useful and even then implementing it in software involves lawyers and additional decisions / interpretations in order to implement it. Then you have the legal cases which decide things that cause changes as well...

4) Short deadlines, high demands. This was a 5 year project and they had about 2-3 years of time and charged more money but throwing money at development doesn't speed it up with the same level quality as normal project pacing.

5) Consultants are paid by TIME not success. Ask anything you want, they'll say yes and just bill more hours. Failure just means more hours and successful completion is not a big motivation.

6) The more contractors who have to work together the more troubles are created.

7) The more governments and gov departments, the more hurdles you have. Like contractors but worse; especially, if those governments are not cooperative, competent, or responsive. Many state governments and politicians have been trying to harm this project.

8) Contracts, renewals, punishments are purely political, NOT results oriented. Failure only delays you until the next contract you bribe your way into - if you even end up fired at all. This company was probably #1 in getting contracts and not in their services provided; they'll get plenty of future contracts and probably do nothing to improve the quality of their services... as they likely did in the past. The entire political process is a huge target for attack by contractors; it's best to do it in house than contract to sufficiently large contractors who can manipulate the process.

9) Metrics. Measurements of success or failure are purely political. Even with contractual metrics specified upfront, politics trumps all reason or law. Specific goals can be met but general ones can be grandstanded -- or design flaws that were approved or demanded can be shifted from the actual culprits to the contractors.

10) Lawyers. Involved all over. If not the root of all evil, they are right afterwards. Don't award corp X the contract, get sued by corp X. Fire corp Y for failure to deliver, get sued by corp Y or the gov sues corp Y... Need a decision to move forward with some implementation detail? must run it by the lawyers 1st... that could end up in legal battles with multiple parties before being resolved and I'm not saying these legal battles all take place in court.

This May Just Be... (1)

Anonymous Coward | about 10 months ago | (#45919987)

This may just be the biggest software development failure of all time. Certainly the most public large scale software development failure.

Re:This May Just Be... (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 10 months ago | (#45920273)

Windows ME?

Re:This May Just Be... (1)

afidel (530433) | about 10 months ago | (#45920317)

Not even close, $600M is a drop in the ocean, the IRS has wasted $12B and counting on their two major attempts at modernization. The Airforce blew $1B on ECSS. The DOD and VA wasted $1B on a failed EHR project. You get the picture, multibillion dollar IT project failures are more common than successes when it comes to the federal government and most of the blame lies at the feet of the large consulting companies that see problems as a source of revenue rather than failures.

Re:This May Just Be... (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 10 months ago | (#45920321)

I think Windows ME still holds the title.

Contracted Potential (2)

shuz (706678) | about 10 months ago | (#45920085)

In a company of 280,000+ employees, Accenture has the capacity and expertise to make the IT side of the government healthcare offerings work. My two biggest fears are both money related. One that the amount of money allocated to fix and maintain will be less than what is needed to do a sufficient job or that the money allocated will put into place less human assets of the correct expertise. Second that the correct expertise and money are both available, but that Accenture might direct more funds to profit while short changing the project with substandard expertise. If neither of these issues occur, then I expect this change could have positive impact. Throwing either new monies, or new management into the existing mix alone could have a negative impact. The right smart people, at all levels, need to be there, and care.

Well, at least... (1)

nwaack (3482871) | about 10 months ago | (#45920131)

They didn't get any of the taxpayers money before leaving. What a joke.

How many billion more before its fixed? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 10 months ago | (#45920135)

So how much more are we paying this new company to fix the three years of data junk the other one did? Then tell me who runs that new company and how is it affiliated with Obama? Because you know there is a connection somewhere.Also, why did they not do this a couple years ago?
Say what you will about Governor Christie, at least he did something about the scandal. Fire people is the only way to fix a problem and make others pay attention.
Obama can't fire people either because they will hang him out to dry in a book or they are friends and you never fire friends.
Its sickening how government's are being run these days. Worse then the mob corruption days of the 50's. Nobody cares about the average Joe in America. We have ridiculously high unemployment but because this has gone on so long. The popular number is actually going down from so many dropping off the grid.
7000 last month dropped out of the medical field. Do you think maybe they gave up because of Obama care? Could be.

no shortage of hired goon typenosys peddlers (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 10 months ago | (#45920157)

& they are sponsored by the 'story' sponsors. sad news when everything is about liars touts & shills defending/promoting murderous & larcenious deceptions

CGI? 1994 called... (1)

otis wildflower (4889) | about 10 months ago | (#45920233)

WTF they writing stuff in CGI at this point anyways? /sarc

Out of the frying pan and in to the fire (1)

JamesA (164074) | about 10 months ago | (#45920251)

A company so bad they had to change their name from Anderson Consulting to escape the stench.

More appropriately named Assenter. Next up to the gravy train will be Toillette and Douche.

Re:Out of the frying pan and in to the fire (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 10 months ago | (#45920531)

you know, this is simply wrong. Andersen consulting was legally required to give up the andersen name when they and arthur andersen split (they formed an umbrella corp called andersen worlwide at the time). Now AA gave up their name to escape the stench of enron (and still went under) but that was after the acrimonious split between the two. Anyway, lots of reasons to hate on Accenture, but this is not one of them.

Obama is at least consistent (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 10 months ago | (#45920277)

He can't do ANYTHING well, and the mess this health
care situation has become is one more proof.

Same people, same process (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 10 months ago | (#45920335)

What is Accenture going to do? Hire the same people using the same process. They'll win the contract, and need people with healthcare experience. And who will be available immediately? The people the last consultants just terminated. Probably with active security clearances and everything. The net change will be zero.

Yay, another foreign corporation (5, Insightful)

CyberLeader (106732) | about 10 months ago | (#45920423)

When you're tired of screwing it up like amateurs, bring in Accenture so you can screw it up like professionals!

My firm has made a lot of money cleaning up Accenture's disasters. It's a living.

So while Accenture was originally based in Bermuda, they've since moved their corporate HQ to Ireland. Could we at least pick a vendor incorporated in the U.S.?

Who's surprised here? (-1)

Anonymous Coward | about 10 months ago | (#45920557)

CGI is headquartered in Montreal, the most corrupt city in the most corrupt province in Canada...

sad thing is... (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 10 months ago | (#45920595)

the infrastructure is in place for a single payer system... and has been since 1966.

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