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Social Security Administration Joins Other Agencies With $300M "IT Boondoggle"

Unknown Lamer posted about 4 months ago | from the should-have-gone-into-government-IT dept.

Government 144

alphadogg (971356) writes with news that the SSA has joined the long list of federal agencies with giant failed IT projects. From the article: "Six years ago the Social Security Administration embarked on an aggressive plan to replace outdated computer systems overwhelmed by a growing flood of disability claims. Nearly $300 million later, the new system is nowhere near ready and agency officials are struggling to salvage a project racked by delays and mismanagement, according to an internal report commissioned by the agency. In 2008, Social Security said the project was about two to three years from completion. Five years later, it was still two to three years from being done, according to the report by McKinsey and Co., a management consulting firm. Today, with the project still in the testing phase, the agency can't say when it will be completed or how much it will cost.

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Sounds Like Beta (1)

Anonymous Coward | about 4 months ago | (#47524057)

Sounds a lot like Beta Slashdot. How many years until that is out of testing and complete?

Re:Sounds Like Beta (-1)

Anonymous Coward | about 4 months ago | (#47524233)

Socialism. Ain't it grand?

All Hail Glorious Leader Obama!!!

Re:Sounds Like Beta (3, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | about 4 months ago | (#47524435)

What are you talking about? Socialism?
It was Lockheed Martin that did this work.
A for profit company you know. Private business ALWAYS does it better right?
Good thing Lockheed Martin NEVER bungles a sweet Gov contract.
CEO got $25 million last YEAR for pay.. It's not like that is a significant portion of the wasted $300 million or anything.
That by the way was a raise.. Her pay doubled.
I mean, just because they waste millions of tax payers $$ every year does not mean that they should get poverty wages like little people.
Do you know how many pay offs, I mean donations they had to get to steal, I mean get awarded all that tax payer money??
I mean, think of all the time spent on the bribes, I mean sponsored outings, with policy makers!
It's hard work to drink all that booze and eat all that lobster!

Oh, wait, maybe you are just confusing crony capitalism and corruption with socialism.. Yea' maybe that is it.

Re:Sounds Like Beta (1)

Anonymous Coward | about 4 months ago | (#47525845)

Good Lord, hopefully it never gets to that point! The Beta site can't be salvaged. It is a lost cause, and it should have been discarded months ago. It's one of those things that's just so fucking broken in so many inherent ways that it can't be saved. The sooner it's completely thrown away, the better. Keeping it around just causes more harm and more expense.

Legacy Systems. (4, Insightful)

jellomizer (103300) | about 4 months ago | (#47524073)

Legacy Systems are built with 40 years of code and modifications to meet every requirement the user needs.

Then you have 5 years to build something new and try to catch 40 years worth of rules and logic.

Re:Legacy Systems. (1)

Anonymous Coward | about 4 months ago | (#47524157)

Yeah, it is called a Service Bus and you do validation on the endpoints with rules that are determined through an objective and iterative analysis.

Something fails validation and it goes into a review queue to be fixed in ways dependent on the type of failure detected.

You end up with a sieve that acts like an airlock for unreliable data.

Searching for records first goes to the "safe" side. If no records found use legacy system. Over time the weight shifts from one to the other and personnel requirements for manning the queue diminishes.

I only get paid a couple million a year to do this kind of work. They got ripped off. So that then leads us to the question of WHO THE HELL IS VALIDATING THAT THESE VENDORS KNOW WHAT THEY ARE DOING?

There is NO consequences for poor candidate validation.

Re:Legacy Systems. (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 4 months ago | (#47524311)

Medinformatix? Yup...you sure do make lots of money putting systems [i]just like this[/i] in place. I've seen your...efforts. Not stellar.

Re:Legacy Systems. (1)

bad-badtz-maru (119524) | about 4 months ago | (#47524831)

I love this:

>> Searching for records first goes to the "safe" side. If no records found use legacy system. ...as if the system consists of a single query, so the solution is simply to scan the new system and then the old system. Versus the reality of ten bazillion queries and thousands of database tables.

Re:Legacy Systems. (3, Informative)

gunner_von_diamond (3461783) | about 4 months ago | (#47524235)

racked by delays and mismanagement

40 years of code could mean 2-3 years of development, and then fixing a bug here and there and updating this or that every now and then. Just because some of the code is 40 years old does not equate to 40 years of development time.

5 years is a pretty long time to focus on straight dev time. Sounds like the mismanagement part had more of an impact than just using the excuse of it being a "legacy system". I realize that management always portays the timeline as 1/3 of what it will actually take to develop something, but wasting 5 years and $300 million... It's hard for me to think of a justification for that!

Re:Legacy Systems. (1)

ShanghaiBill (739463) | about 4 months ago | (#47524347)

It is also important to keep some perspective. Compared to many other government boondoggles, $300 million is not that much. The F-35 program burns through that much EVERY DAY.

Re:Legacy Systems. (4, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | about 4 months ago | (#47524469)

Hmm..
F-35:
Lockheed Martin

New system for Social Security primary contractor:
Lockheed Martin..

Yes perspective.. Yea' we wasted $300 million, but at least that is not as much as WE wasted on the F-35 project..
And lets double our CEO pay while we are at it.

http://www.washingtonpost.com/business/capitalbusiness/lockheed-ceo-hewsons-pay-doubles-to-25-million-in-2013/2014/03/21/c6390418-aebe-11e3-a49e-76adc9210f19_story.html

Re:Legacy Systems. (2)

mr_mischief (456295) | about 4 months ago | (#47524497)

Just think of it as a jobs program/economic stimulus/enrichment of a random company on the public dole. It makes perfect sense if you buy into the economic value of the government scaling big bureaucracies that depend on a competent contractor to help them scale so big being beneficial to the economy. Just think about how much more beneficial it is, then, to have it done three or four times to get it right.

On the other hand, consumers could have spent that money rather than paying the government to pay those extra contractor costs. But then again, consumers tend to over-spend anyway and corrode the economy. Sometimes that's to the point that the government has to choose between bailing out the banks and bailing out the consumers. Then again, the government encourages that, too. And of course rather than bailing out the consumers they bail out the banks so they can create more consumer debt and start all over.

The main difference between big government folks and small government folks, you see, isn't that one thinks the government is well intentioned and the other thinks it is evil and needs to be kept in check. That's certainly a factor, but it's not the main one. The main difference is that big government people have an idealized concept of the government as a doer of good. Small government people are skeptical that anything too big and too detached from the lives of real people can reasonably accomplish good things for the majority of people on a regular basis.

Re:Legacy Systems. (4, Insightful)

AK Marc (707885) | about 4 months ago | (#47524801)

Delays and mismanagement is standard for any large enterprise. The only difference is that corporations have more legal room to hide their mistakes.

Re:Legacy Systems. (1)

khallow (566160) | about 4 months ago | (#47525297)

The only difference is that corporations have more legal room to hide their mistakes.

Such as needing to turn a profit and being legally required to follow GAAP?

Re:Legacy Systems. (2)

AK Marc (707885) | about 4 months ago | (#47525609)

GAAP requires private companies to respond to FOI requests?

No, it's properly documented for the annual report, but listed as "one time write-off", often as part of an acquisition cost, with insufficient details to determine the actual cause. And when the company turns a multi-billion dollar profit, you can lose $300M on a single project without bankrupting the company.

Re:Legacy Systems. (1)

khallow (566160) | about 4 months ago | (#47525729)

GAAP requires private companies to respond to FOI requests?

That's a different issue. FOIA applies to public work done by private companies as it does for public work done by US/UK government organizations.

Re:Legacy Systems. (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 4 months ago | (#47525675)

Sonce when does GAAP require an itemized list of every expense?

Re:Legacy Systems. (1)

khallow (566160) | about 4 months ago | (#47525491)

Then you have 5 years to build something new and try to catch 40 years worth of rules and logic.

Sounds hard, but far from impossible on a $300 million budget and five years.

Re:Legacy Systems. (1)

Desler (1608317) | about 4 months ago | (#47525687)

Never worked for or with Lockheed, eh? Or maybe never heard of the F35?

Re:Legacy Systems. (1)

khallow (566160) | about 4 months ago | (#47525787)

Or maybe never heard of the F35?

That's a non sequitur. Even if Lockheed was being paid to make a viable fighter jet - rather than the reality that they were paid whether or not they made a viable fighter jet - it's not the same as being paid a large pile of money to do an IT project.

hire the girlsgonewild.com team, they can scale (2, Informative)

raymorris (2726007) | about 4 months ago | (#47524077)

These government agencies need to hire some developers for whom a few million hits is just another day. Something like girlsgonewild.com gets more traffic than healthcare.gov, and handles it with two well-configured commodity servers.

Re:hire the girlsgonewild.com team, they can scale (4, Informative)

jeffmeden (135043) | about 4 months ago | (#47524145)

These government agencies need to hire some developers for whom a few million hits is just another day. Something like girlsgonewild.com gets more traffic than healthcare.gov, and handles it with two well-configured commodity servers.

Something tells me that with girlsgonewild.com, the "interaction" is mostly "client-side" so the, er, "workload" is actually minimal. And the use case count, I believe, still stands at 1, and they are at best appealing to exactly half of the US population. It's a bit different than a place like the Social Security Administration, an org that has taken on the unenviable task of managing retirement and disability insurance for *every goddamn american* which is a pretty ludicrous scope. If raw horsepower were the issue, yes bring in outside help. The real problem (or at least one of them) is that of all 65,000 employees, many of them have a specific task since the aforementioned scope is so grand. Try finding a way to economize when you are basically building a system for a small clerical office, and then doing it about 15,000 times with each iteration just different enough from the last to require constant rewrites.

Re: hire the girlsgonewild.com team, they can scal (1)

Mike McCaughan (3764571) | about 4 months ago | (#47524241)

Also FAIRLY sure displaying videos is a little easier than integrating with a complex database back end which i assume is itself integrated with thousands of health insurance providers who dont have their shit together.

Re:hire the girlsgonewild.com team, they can scale (3, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | about 4 months ago | (#47524349)

These sites aren't developed by in house programmers.

Braidamaged, toxic, idiotic, retard conservative culture (You. You heard me. Did I fucking stutter?) has convinced everyone that nothing can be ever developed in house by a government, ever.

It all must be contracted out to whoever can bribe officials the best and can lie on their proposal the best. This method will always go over cost and under deliver. Every time. By design.

When the project blows up, conservatives blame the government and the cheating contractors are free repeat the process to line their pockets again.

Re: hire the girlsgonewild.com team, they can scal (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 4 months ago | (#47524385)

Oh good grief. Conservatives have been pushing to simplify things like the tax code that all but virtually eliminate departments like the IRS. Do you ever think these departments are just too huge? Reduce and simplify. It's horrendous and horrible.

Re: hire the girlsgonewild.com team, they can scal (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 4 months ago | (#47524847)

Yeah, Conservatives would reduce and simplify government to the point of non-existence, leading us to a system where nobody paid any taxes.

Wouldn't that be grand!

Re: hire the girlsgonewild.com team, they can scal (-1)

Anonymous Coward | about 4 months ago | (#47525601)

Dude, go take your meds...go on, waiting will not help.

Re:hire the girlsgonewild.com team, they can scale (4, Insightful)

Curunir_wolf (588405) | about 4 months ago | (#47524475)

Braidamaged, toxic, idiotic, retard conservative culture (You. You heard me. Did I fucking stutter?) has convinced everyone that nothing can be ever developed in house by a government, ever.

It's known as "crony capitalism", or "Public-private-partnerships (PPP)", and we called it Fascism in the 1930's and 1940's. Leadership on the "progressive" or "liberal" side is at least as guilty of promoting these things as conservative culture, in fact it seems to be conservatives that want to back away from it, while the Democrats are doubling-down. It was the Democrat governor Mark Warner that handed all of Virginia's IT work over to Northrop Grumman many years ago. And, of course, the liberal appointees at Obama's HHS that outsourced the HealthCare.gov website for millions of dollars more than should have been spent to do it.

Unlike liberal Texas (3, Informative)

raymorris (2726007) | about 4 months ago | (#47524541)

Unlike Texas, where the state government employs thousands of programmers because they are so liberal. I just got out of a meeting with a bunch of government programmers from Texas. They'll all tell you the same thing - getting stuff done within red tape of a government agency takes them twice as long as long as it took them in the private sector jobs - unless there is a federal grant or contract involved, in which case it takes twenty times as long.

One project they did last year was for a federal government contract, for OSHA. They spent a year and a half developing the system, then during the beta test OSHA cancelled the project. This is after the feds had them write a system where it would print all the database records on paper, to be sent to the feds, who would manually enter it into a computer file, then send that file back to Texas, right back to the same agency who had sent it to them in the first place. That's about typical for the federal government. Government is one thing - it's supposed to be fair and deliberate, not far and efficient. The FEDERAL government is something else entirely.

Re:Unlike liberal Texas (1)

geekoid (135745) | about 4 months ago | (#47525541)

I suspect those programs are used to ignoring good design and engineering principle in the private sector.
I can built a road quicker then the government, but you will be replacing it in a year becasue it won't be engineered.

TFA, and my experience, say the opposite. Complian (1)

raymorris (2726007) | about 4 months ago | (#47525847)

TFS mentions that the contractor is trying to replace hundreds of different incompatible, overlapping study systems that the government has built or ordered. Does having hundreds of different systems with overlapping functionality trying to talk to ready other sound like proper engineering practice to you? That's what the government decision makers have come up with.

From my experience, government systems are designed for two primary goals. First, give each fiefdom it's piece and second, compliance. Compliance generally means complying with a crap load of old documents written by bureaucrats and lawyers. Actually functioning properly is a distant third on the priority list. Engineered design? Rarely is that mentioned.

Re:hire the girlsgonewild.com team, they can scale (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 4 months ago | (#47525137)

Lets say development is moved in-house, and maybe thats even a good idea. Govt consumes a lot of software, why not have a unit for developing their own, which could also could lead to some interesting work with FOSS? Not an uninteresting idea, though that doesn't actually solve the problems. Both sides (customer and dev shop) are still inept and so you still end up with terribly overbudged unfit for use systems in many cases. So when this happens, what is your recourse? Not that the PMs or bidding processes involved seem to be managing them well, but for an external party you can have penalties for non/late delivery, not meeting milestones, etc. With an in-house shop, you get to just eat these. Big govt fans may see this as a good thing though, as it could result in an enormous jobs program, as the departments would justify additional funding/size by means of these internal failures.

Re:hire the girlsgonewild.com team, they can scale (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 4 months ago | (#47524495)

These government agencies need to hire some developers for whom a few million hits is just another day. Something like girlsgonewild.com gets more traffic than healthcare.gov, and handles it with two well-configured commodity servers.

Hiring somebody who would equate the SSA's computer system with a web server that serves mostly static pages and streaming video, rather than more like a giant-scale ERP system is probably what got them behind schedule in the first place.

Missing Key Information (4, Interesting)

NaCh0 (6124) | about 4 months ago | (#47524093)

Until the vendors who are building this system get their company name in the headlines, the status quo will continue.

Re:Missing Key Information (3, Interesting)

netsavior (627338) | about 4 months ago | (#47524165)

The contractor is Lockheed Martin, which is why it is not in the headlines.
Any time you ask them a question you get: "Well sorry, the reason it is late is classified." It is their typical scapegoat, so nobody even bothers asking them questions anymore.
"We have an excuse, we only work with the government, we didn't realize it actually had to work... we just thought we had to grease the right palms...Also we need more H1Bs please."

Re:Missing Key Information (4, Interesting)

jcochran (309950) | about 4 months ago | (#47524459)

Oh good god...

I was a LM employee a few years back. Brought in on a project that was failing. And the main issue with the failure was their process.
For instance, LM was using Common Criteria and they were trying to get the system to EAL4. And frankly, getting there is quite doable. Unfortunately, management and the customers for the project didn't bother to actually understand anything about requirements.

For instance, in Common Criteria, your need to tailor the documents. An example would be this template being tailored to the system requirement:
FPT_FLS.1.1 The TSF shall preserve a secure state when the following types of
failures occur: [assignment: list of types of failures in the TSF].

The above template is obviously intended to be tailored to include a list of possible or predictable failures upon which the system will still remain secure. But this is how LM tailored that little beauty:
FPT_FLS.1.1 The TSF shall preserve a secure state upon a partial system failure.

Notice how the tailoring totally removed anything concrete about the requirement? What kind of partial failure? How do you test it? When is it violated? etc, etc, etc, ad nasium.

And that kind of bullshit "tailoring" was done EVERYWHERE. There would be multi-hour meetings just change, tailor, and interpret specifications tailored that way. And any suggestion by anyone working in the trenches stating that the requirements were badly done and needed to be redone properly in order to actually get a functional system was met by "We can't do that, it would be too costly."

If the above paradigm was used on the Social Security project, I can definitely see why progress has been snail slow and over budget. They're most likely still attempting to get their specifications correct.

Re:Missing Key Information (4, Insightful)

jeffmeden (135043) | about 4 months ago | (#47524989)

Until the vendors who are building this system get their company name in the headlines, the status quo will continue.

The other key information is this: The SSA has 65,000 employees and is in charge of a staggering $736B per year (as of 2011, and it continues to rise). And we are here having a pissing match about all the reasons that $300M is too much to spend on the system that is supposed to make sense of over 300 million "customers" (1 dollar per customer?) One half of one percent of their annual budget is too much to get this right? Most corps spend upwards of 10% of their annual revenue on IT, and surely the SSA is not most corps but the scope of what they do is really impossible to underestimate so a project in the hundreds of millions shouldn't make anyone flinch.

The real missing key information is exactly why this kind of story is surprising, on any level, to anyone? My gut says it's the fake shock of someone who would protest anything that came out of the SSA.

Re:Missing Key Information (2)

FrozenToothbrush (3466403) | about 4 months ago | (#47525577)

Another huge thing is the continuous requirement changes from the government after the product is already developed.

Re:Missing Key Information (1)

Desler (1608317) | about 4 months ago | (#47525701)

As opposed to the same thing that happens developing commercial software? Changing requirements, scope creep, etc. is just par for the course in ALL software development.

A large IT project is late and over budget? (4, Funny)

jeffb (2.718) (1189693) | about 4 months ago | (#47524105)

I've never heard of such a thing. Thank goodness Slashdot is here to challenge our preconceptions.

Re:A large IT project is late and over budget? (1)

i kan reed (749298) | about 4 months ago | (#47524365)

I learned in school that almost 50% of software projects fail to deliver at all.

Cue blaming the contractor ... (4, Insightful)

gstoddart (321705) | about 4 months ago | (#47524117)

And, now they'll say it was all the fault of the contractor.

In reality, I suspect it's government infighting, poorly defined (and constantly changing) specs, and congress-critters trying to get a piece of the pie for their own districts.

They always blame the contractor but usually it's being managed by incompetent people without enough accountability and controls.

In fairness, I've seen a lot of legacy migrations fail, because it's often damned near impossible to understand the existing system well enough to write a replacement for it, and then you end up breaking everything which has been integrated with it for years.

I've been on a few large legacy replacement projects which fell squarely on their nose as the project progressed, largely because the system is vastly more complex than the initial analysis, and people make it impossible at every turn.

Re:Cue blaming the contractor ... (1)

pr0fessor (1940368) | about 4 months ago | (#47524247)

poorly defined (and constantly changing) specs

Been there, done that, probably doing it again next week.

I love it when some random project manager leaps into a commercial product only to find the requirements they shopped for when purchasing aren't the same as the business requirements. It usually has some hard to find out of the ordinary feature that was specifically requested and then is missing a couple common critical features that were not mentioned by the requester.

Re:Cue blaming the contractor ... (2)

Desler (1608317) | about 4 months ago | (#47524267)

And why shouldn't they be blamed? These large contracting companies are largely incompetent. They get business by lobbying not competency.

Re:Cue blaming the contractor ... (1)

Tailhook (98486) | about 4 months ago | (#47524303)

And, now they'll say it was all the fault of the contractor.

Reading the story doesn't make it clear. Lockheed Martin was contracted in 2011. However, the project began in 2008.

So either it took SSA three years to select a contractor (entirely plausible,) or SSA started the project internally and then contracted it out for some reason.

In any case the cause seems clear enough; the analyst Congress made them hire can't figure out who is in charge of delivering the system. No one in SSA has taken responsibility — so it flounders on — the never ending zombie IT project.

Diffusing responsibility is job #1 for bureaucracies. It seems SSA has perfected their work.

Re:Cue blaming the contractor ... (1)

Tridus (79566) | about 4 months ago | (#47524351)

And a lot of the time, the contractor is utterly incompetent and more interested in billing hours than completing the job.

Let's not pretend that companies taking government contracts are good guys, here.

Re:Cue blaming the contractor ... (2)

un1nsp1red (2503532) | about 4 months ago | (#47524355)

In reality, I suspect it's government infighting, poorly defined (and constantly changing) specs, and congress-critters trying to get a piece of the pie for their own districts.

Sure, there's no doubt those things come into play. However, Lockheed isn't new here. They've dealt with plenty of government contracts, and they should be well aware of these conditions. Take your estimates and triple or quadruple them if you have to.

Re:Cue blaming the contractor ... (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 4 months ago | (#47524627)

I have no reason not to trust your unfounded suspicions, because they sound true-like.

It is the fault of the contractor, because it's the job of the contractor.

Re:Cue blaming the contractor ... (1)

Desler (1608317) | about 4 months ago | (#47524705)

Especially since Lockheed has a history of these expensive blunders.

Re: Cue blaming the contractor ... (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 4 months ago | (#47525089)

I think the list of on-time & on-budget projects is likely shorter for LM.

dear us govt (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 4 months ago | (#47524127)

stop hiring the free market, it's just grifters.

Re:dear us govt (1)

schwit1 (797399) | about 4 months ago | (#47524693)

Lockheed Martin is not the free market when it comes to government. They are closer to a lamprey [wired.com] .

How much of this work has been, or was outsourced? (2)

ebusinessmedia1 (561777) | about 4 months ago | (#47524133)

It would be interesting to know what % of this work was outsourced, or in-sourced, to foreign corporations/workers. Also, it would be interesting to know 1) how contracts for this work were let, and how they were monitored along the way; 2) what incentives for good work were included, or disincentives for bad work were included. Does anyone know?

Re:How much of this work has been, or was outsourc (2)

gstoddart (321705) | about 4 months ago | (#47524237)

And, then contrast that to how much controls were on the people who oversaw it, how well they communicated/knew the requirements, how often they changed them, and how much political infighting they did.

I've been on several projects trying to replace legacy systems. And, as often as not, the client is fighting among themselves, the definitions are either never nailed down or are constantly shifting, and the people involved have no actual experience in managing large scale IT projects.

I'm more likely to think this is a management issue than an issue with who was doing the work.

Ask anybody who has been involved in such a project.

I was on one project that had 11 PMs (no, I'm not kidding), all with their own agenda, and no two of them could ever agree on anything.

It was a truly terrible experience. The people in charge of the existing technology didn't want change and actively sabotaged stuff. The various stakeholders were all trying to carve out their own little fiefdom, the users weren't consulted until late into the project, and the specs might as well have been written in smoke.

The people trying to actually build it were constantly being told "no, don't do that, do this" only to have someone else say "why the hell are you doing this when we told you to do that?". Heck, I've left a meeting one day where everybody said "OK, we agree to do this", only to have a directive come down a day later which said "we can't possibly do that".

Combine that with vastly complex legacy systems nobody really fully understands, because it's been hacked, extended, patched, and a zillion other things for a few decades and you end up with a complete mess.

As I've said elsewhere in this thread, my money is on a failure of the owners of the project to actually take ownership and responsibility, instead of endlessly changing their mind and finding other people to blame. Documenting all of the bullshit becomes a full time job, because you need to CYA for when things go wrong later.

Some problems simply can't be fixed with good technical staff. Because the technical staff is just there to be yelled at and be scapegoats for management incompetence.

Re:How much of this work has been, or was outsourc (1)

Desler (1608317) | about 4 months ago | (#47524727)

The funniest part of your rants is the unfounded assumption that Lockheed is or ever was competent.

Yeah right, "diability claims" (2, Interesting)

smooth wombat (796938) | about 4 months ago | (#47524135)

How man of us have either seen commercials or heard about lawyers colluding with doctors to get people to claim "disability" with the SSA even when they have nothing wrong with them?

This is definitely one of those programs which needs heavy monitoring to weed out waste and fraud, along with military procurement.

True story along the same lines. My dad had to appear in court regarding a disability (non SSA) claim one of the company employees claimed they had and why they couldn't come back to work.

During testimony, a video was shown of this person, who claimed they injured their back, lifting bags of cement over his shoulder and climbing up a ladder to do work. Obviously his claims were rejected and he was fired, but I'm sure we can find thousands of people on SSA "disability" who are doing the same thing.

Re:Yeah right, "diability claims" (1)

MightyYar (622222) | about 4 months ago | (#47524251)

It's all about incentives. When we shut down welfare in the 90s, we did so in a way that encouraged states to migrate people enrolled in welfare over to SS. The states naturally responded to these incentives.

Re:Yeah right, "diability claims" (2)

sandytaru (1158959) | about 4 months ago | (#47524305)

I've heard about it, but I know precisely one person who is on SSI for disability - my sister who has schizophrenia - and she has the mental capabilities of a ten year old.

I have an acquaintance (not a friend, I don't like him) who threw out his back at work and tried for years to get SSI disability, to no avail. He was capable of working, he just didn't want to any more. (We have a lot of call centers here in town. Indoor work with no heavy lifting.) I think all the judges in his case knew that was his goal, which is why he kept getting turned down.

TL;DR - Despite what the commercials and stories say, I think the system is working as intended.

Re:Yeah right, "diability claims" (2)

weiserfireman (917228) | about 4 months ago | (#47524535)

I was in a meeting with our Workman's Comp Carrier recently

A representative of the carrier said "If a person doesn't return to work in 6 months, the odds are they will never work again in their life".

Made sense, 6 months is the disability term required to get SSI

Re:Yeah right, "diability claims" (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 4 months ago | (#47524631)

Back when SSI used to mail out annual booklets letting me know how much I paid into the system and how much I would get out if I became fully disabled, I decided that I'd rather just die than try to live on the few hundred bucks a month SSI was offering.

Maybe if people had $100,000+/year jobs that would pay out a thousand or so bucks they could live the high life in a slum by "retiring" on SSI.

Re:Yeah right, "diability claims" (1)

sandytaru (1158959) | about 4 months ago | (#47525225)

Yeah, the SSI check my sister receives is just about enough to cover the cost of her group home's fees. I think she gets $30 spending money a month, plus whatever we send her. Her meals are covered, but she's not exactly living in the lap of luxury.

Re:Yeah right, "diability claims" (1)

Desler (1608317) | about 4 months ago | (#47525559)

How dare you bring facts into this. People on SSI are mooches living the highlife off of the backs of the hardworking. Rush Limbaugh said so so that's that.

Re:Yeah right, "diability claims" (0)

Desler (1608317) | about 4 months ago | (#47524769)

Yeah and the welfare system was plagued by welfare queens. Oh wait that was just over dramatized fiction from Reagan. No different than your story. There are always people trying to cheat stuff but statistically it's not as large a group of people as right-wingers want us to believe.

Really, We Get What We Deserve (1)

mtrachtenberg (67780) | about 4 months ago | (#47524137)

Gee, another $300 million down the drain on a system that doesn't work? What a shocker.

Contractors are being well-paid, government supervisors are being well-paid, I'm sure no one will be fired and I'm sure at least some folks who have contributed to the problem are getting bonuses. Just like the banks in 2008 -- there is not a shred of real accountability.

A public that allows this is getting what it pays for. It really has no reason to complain.

Re:Really, We Get What We Deserve (1)

mtrachtenberg (67780) | about 4 months ago | (#47524173)

Look at what happened with the Obamacare website to see how things actually work. Tons of time and money were spent on an important system that was developed by the usual suspects. It didn't work, and it was going to cause problems for someone important, the President. So what happened? The President called in competent people -- the people who had worked on his campaign website, not the people who work for his government. The thing got turned around in no time and started working. See -- people get what they care about.

Re:Really, We Get What We Deserve (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 4 months ago | (#47524923)

"The President called in competent people"

Hardly, they massively simplified objectives. The went from trying to build a fully integrated document management/verification/pre check system to slapping up some pretty web form that simply dumped the information into a database for workers to manually sort through later. Even this system wasn't completely stable, thousands of applications were lost. It would be like a township/county/city government building a "new government office building" and after years of work and tens/hundreds of thousands of dollars and only having a partially constructed frame on a muddy lot to show for it. To try to divert attention from the boondoggle they have a Hollywood set company come in overnight and build a facade that looks like the finished building and allow people to slide applications through a mail slot.

Re:Really, We Get What We Deserve (2)

ISoldat53 (977164) | about 4 months ago | (#47524231)

The same thing happens in the private sector too. We just don't hear as much about it.

Dishonest people (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 4 months ago | (#47524163)

So tell us, which are the dishonest and incompetent companies that did the work? Just blacklist them from everywhere.

You can count on defense contractors (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 4 months ago | (#47524167)

I find it hard to believe that Lockheed-Martin has had trouble delivering. After all, the F-35 was on time and under budget!

Staged deployments and Agile (1)

MobyDisk (75490) | about 4 months ago | (#47524215)

Have none of these places heard of replacing a system piece-by-piece? Or agile development? You don't take a decades old system and replace it in one step. You replace it piece-by-piece. That's not trivial to do, but these stories about "5-year project cancelled with absolutely nothing to show for it" are crazy.

Re:Staged deployments and Agile (1)

sandytaru (1158959) | about 4 months ago | (#47524341)

We are about to go live with a system where we're doing just that. 10 year old internal website, originally built for IE6 or somesuch, throws a hissy fit when presented with anything passed IE8. We're rebuilding one page of it that happens to be the most broadly used page, so that 90% of the user base can finally get rid of IE8. The other 10% can wait another few years while we gut and rebuild the rest of it.

its all about how the project is made (4, Insightful)

Karmashock (2415832) | about 4 months ago | (#47524227)

Contractors will give you two basic choices for contracts.

1. Pay for my time. Do what every you want, change what ever you want... but you pay for my time.

2. Specify the project in exact detail and the whole thing will get an over all bid to those specifications. Changes cost extra and may require an additional contract.

I'm assuming the government keeps going with option 1 and I'm thinking most of these issues would go away if they went with option 2.

No, they can't resist changing things (4, Insightful)

Bruce66423 (1678196) | about 4 months ago | (#47524331)

The reality is that governments - be it in defence or eslewhere - are always moving the goal posts, and the contractors are running to catch up. So in theory option 2 is the best, but it usually doesn't work out as well as it really ought to. The UK is currently playing the same game with a new system for welfare benefits, and it's equally disasterous. And remember - the private sector is often as bad, they usually get to bury their mistakes without publicity!

Re:No, they can't resist changing things (1)

Karmashock (2415832) | about 4 months ago | (#47524511)

You're using examples where they were given the option of doing it ad hoc.

Consider if as part of the appopriations you made it a requirement by law that they go with option 2.

By all means, you can have some projects that go by option 1. But if you want 300 million dollars and you have a track record of fucking it up... Require them to go with option 2 so our money doesn't get wasted. IF the contractor fails to deliver they don't get paid.

The burden must be on the government to be very clear about what it wants and then on the contractor to deliver that need.

These "cost plus" projects are fine during time of war when we're trying to accelerate experimental projects into battle platforms. But it is a very poor way to run thing in any other context.

Re:No, they can't resist changing things (1)

geekoid (135745) | about 4 months ago | (#47525503)

government usually is, and the contractor always says it's clear.
If I tell you, I want 4 apples for a dollar, is that clear?
And you say yes.
Whose fault is it when you bring me 5 tomatoes?

Re:No, they can't resist changing things (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 4 months ago | (#47525333)

Government - too big to succeed.

its all about how the project is made (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 4 months ago | (#47524389)

The problem is that Specify the project in exact detail is impractical. By the time the details are flushed out, requirements change. And more often than not, the requirements will change while the project is being implemented.

Second, with layers of contracting work, incompetent people are put to work. The screening process is utter bullshit. Fake references. Fake experience. Fake resumes. On-site test would get rid of 95% of crap. But it costs money up front. And it's in the interest of the subcontractor to delay since they are paid by time. There is no incentive for efficiency.

Re:its all about how the project is made (1)

Karmashock (2415832) | about 4 months ago | (#47524481)

The status quo is unacceptable. Do you have constructive commentary or only a will to say we are doomed?

Re:its all about how the project is made (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 4 months ago | (#47524403)

I was in a telephone meeting a few weeks ago with a contractor who was jabbering on about "we could built a lambourgini inside a garage where you can't see it till its done or we could build a bicycle in the driveway without any wheels then add the wheels then add the handle bar then add ..."

The people around the table were slack jawed at the foolishness the guy was going on and on about.

After 5 minutes of his blabbering I couldn't take it anymore so I interrupted and asked why he didn't use the project templates that already exist.

Re:its all about how the project is made (4, Insightful)

Tridus (79566) | about 4 months ago | (#47524427)

Speaking as a developer who works for a government, option 2 is rarely possible.

Keep in mind that the "government" is a collection of departments, branches, sections, or whatever you call them. Those are run by managers, which are run by more managers, which all have their own agendas, budgets, and powers to protect. Now add in politicians at the top, who change pretty regularly and have very different goals from everyone else.

So, in the best case scenario, at the start of a project everyone agrees on what it needs to do, what needs to be replaced, and everything else. You have specs, and you know what the goals are. Great! Then an election happens. New party in power, and priorites change. Now it has to do something else.

Oh, then a manager retires and a new one comes in. Now it has to do something else.

A new law is passed, now it has to do something else.

Someone changed their mind, and now it has to do something else. ... on, and on, and on it goes. This happens *all the time*. And that's if the people actually know what they want, which in my experience often isn't true in itself (like the Air Force ERP that didn't know how many systems it was replacing).

In a case where there is clear goals and strong management, #2 works great. Often times things just change too much and the only sensible way to accomplish anything is to go with #1 and do the project in smaller, more manageable pieces.

Re:its all about how the project is made (1)

Karmashock (2415832) | about 4 months ago | (#47524467)

they don't change the way bridges are built after the engineers and politicians sign off on the plan.

you do the same thing... does that mean they'll be constrained to the initial project? Yes. So what... it will get done and then you can change it later AFTER it works.

Further, this would encourage such people to spend more time in planning rather then just greenlighting things with no consideration.

The status quo is unacceptable. You have experience in the field? Great... tell us how to fix it. Don't tell me it can't be fixed.

Re:its all about how the project is made (1)

geekoid (135745) | about 4 months ago | (#47525453)

Exactly. Bring engineering back into software engineering.

Re:its all about how the project is made (1)

Desler (1608317) | about 4 months ago | (#47525525)

That presumes it was ever there to begin with.

What a deal! (1)

colin_faber (1083673) | about 4 months ago | (#47524307)

At least it's considerably cheaper than the stupid PPACA exchanges.

Re:What a deal! (1)

geekoid (135745) | about 4 months ago | (#47525465)

No it's not.

Not that I expect you to use actual facts when trying to stuff you ideology into a discussion.

Racked by delays...? (1)

PincushionMan (1312913) | about 4 months ago | (#47524407)

I'm very curious how the racks caused delays. Were there too many that fell over damaging the servers? Perhaps the under performing vendors are being tortured for their failure?

Well, how about that, it appears that the word wrack (synonyms, ruin, destruction, wreckage, (v) to cause destruction) have been replaced by the word rack (synonyms: shelf, torture device, (v) subject to extreme stress).

Bah. My first attempt to be a grammar Nazi and I have to correct myself.

Re:Racked by delays...? (1)

Desler (1608317) | about 4 months ago | (#47524563)

Rack had been used as an alteration of wrack since 1592 according to Merriam-Webster. You're a few hundred years late to the party.

Re:Racked by delays...? (1)

mr_mischief (456295) | about 4 months ago | (#47524577)

"it appears that the word wrack ... have been replaced by the word rack"

There should be 1 federal IT agency (1)

Joe_Dragon (2206452) | about 4 months ago | (#47524429)

There should be 1 federal IT agency that can do all / most of the government IT with out all of the consulting / contracting / subcontracting overhead.

Re:There should be 1 federal IT agency (1)

Desler (1608317) | about 4 months ago | (#47524549)

Good luck funding it.

Re:There should be 1 federal IT agency (1)

geekoid (135745) | about 4 months ago | (#47524789)

IT would be funded from the money the agency pay when they need a major job done.
Of course, I've seen this sort of thing before. In my case we got what needed to be done, done on time, and done well BUT it took longer the private busines claimed they could do it in, and cost more the what private business claimed they can do it for.

Neither of which is true becasue they were always extended.

Re:There should be 1 federal IT agency (1)

jbmartin6 (1232050) | about 4 months ago | (#47524893)

I don't see how yet another huge unaccountable Federal agency is going to resolve the problem.

Anyone who thinks (1)

geekoid (135745) | about 4 months ago | (#47524637)

replacing a large legacy system will take 2-3 years is ignorant or a liar. Neither of which should be involved.

Once again, corporation signed and agreement,. wiggle around for more money and tried to put an organization on the 'it's too late to stop now treadmill'

Anonymous source has dealt with SSA (1)

Anonymous Coward | about 4 months ago | (#47524685)

In a previous life, my company dealt with the SSA data processing side. Obviously I'm posting anonymously. Just wanted to let you know that this is not news.

The SSA data processing and software side is big. So big that you can't do anything without waiting for months to get things through their process. To do anything substantial, you have to get multiple departments together and have their managers agree on the change. They have huge spheres like J2EE, databases, back-end big iron, and so on. Their applications are gigantic. Change management is critical for them, so critical that small changes take a long time. And that's when they're motivated. They have career procrastinators who can turn a 15-minute phone call into a week of back and forth.

What they at SSA do is so important to get right that the change management and testing is everything, and the actual development is almost nothing. It has to be this way. They absolutely have to do it like this. They're not writing $0.99 apps, they're doing something that affects everyone in the USA. (Except the few people who can opt out of SS.) You can write code, but they have to be sure that it works. Their change management process is the single most critical workflow at SSA. Your stuff must pass this process before they'll put it in production, and that means a lot of testing and verification.

BOTTOM LINE: Ain't no way that no contractor is going to whip up no replacement system in no five years, no sir, it ain't gonna happen.

I don't care who it is or how much money they throw at it, the SSA is just too big to do this kind of project successfully in a compressed time frame. I could have told them that 5 years ago and saved people a few million. Besides, $300m isn't that much money for this kind of project.

I can't blame LM for this boondoggle, although I'm sure that they didn't help much. Any big contractor lowballs the bid, takes the money, pays themselves what they want, and hires people with what's left - so I'm sure they scraped the bottom of the barrel for talent on this project.

Hey, the Orioles are having a decent year, so not everything is bad in Baltimore for a change.

Call me (1)

Alsee (515537) | about 4 months ago | (#47524719)

If there are any other government agencies out there looking for a new IT system, I can fail to deliver for $100 million.

-

Re:Call me (1)

Desler (1608317) | about 4 months ago | (#47525501)

Yeah but first you need $200 million to lobby for the contracts.

Who is it with? No one mentions this. (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 4 months ago | (#47525037)

Since we do not have any info on the backend, I suspect this might be an Oracle involved problem. It would be telling if this is so, as I bet Oracle now has very specific clauses that make bad mouthing them a huge legal problem.

If this has nothing to do with Oracle and it's consultants, then it looks like the rest of the consulting industries have take a page from the Oracle handbook on how to get paid and not deliver anything at original estimate.

Re:Who is it with? No one mentions this. (1)

Desler (1608317) | about 4 months ago | (#47525315)

Lockheed. Mentioned in the article.

I sometimes wonder (1)

Anonymous Coward | about 4 months ago | (#47525781)

If these sorts of projects would actually be cheaper if they paid two companies to do them, the one that completes qualification first gets to keep it during the upkeep phase.

Yes, it would require paying for development twice, but you'd be more likely to get a timely result, assuming the upkeep was lucrative and the companies didn't collude.

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