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HP NASA IT

Not Just Healthcare.gov: NASA Has 'Significant Problems' With $2.5B IT Contract 176

Posted by Soulskill
from the moving-at-the-speed-of-government dept.
schwit1 writes "According to the Inspector General, NASA and HP Enterprise Services have encountered significant problems implementing the $2.5 billion Agency Consolidated End-User Services (ACES) contract, which provides desktops, laptops, computer equipment and end-user services such as help desk and data backup. Those problems include 'a failed effort to replace most NASA employees' computers within the first six months and low customer satisfaction,' the report states (PDF). It adds that NASA lacked the technical and cultural readiness for an agencywide IT delivery model and did not offer clear contract requirements, while HP failed to deliver on multiple promises."
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Not Just Healthcare.gov: NASA Has 'Significant Problems' With $2.5B IT Contract

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  • Typical.... (Score:4, Interesting)

    by Lumpy (12016) on Friday February 07, 2014 @08:56AM (#46185287) Homepage

    This is what happens when you under fund the IT budget, and put in management positions MORONS that do not have a strong IT background. If the IT director can not build a pc by hand from parts and then not only install the OS, but all the drivers and then configure it completely, then configure a Cisco switch and router, he is not fit to be in a management role of IT.

    Yet corporations and the Government instead put people with ZERO clue about IT to begin with in the role of management and upper management.

    • Re:Typical.... (Score:5, Insightful)

      by DickBreath (207180) on Friday February 07, 2014 @09:04AM (#46185377) Homepage
      This is a massive failure on several levels of management, and in several different ways of fail.

      I think you are asking for the wrong skills of someone in a management role of IT. There are people who can build a PC, install the OS and drivers yet not be able to code their way out of a paper bag. In fact trained monkeys can do that, and there are plenty of certified monkeys. I don't care if the manager can build a PC. I care if the manager knows the difference between hardware and software.

      Has the manager of a development group ever written any software in his life?

      Another massive fail is that they do not hire the brightest people. They also encourage a culture that repels the brightest people. Bureaucracy. Red tape. Dress codes. Discouraging and even punishing creativity. Encouraging brown nosing and politics. No wonder they can't build an application even with billion dollar budgets.

      No amount of money can fix the problems I described. No amount. Give them ten times the budget, but don't change the real problems and the project will still fail. They don't get this. There are no signs that they ever will get this.
      • Re:Typical.... (Score:4, Informative)

        by Bigbutt (65939) on Friday February 07, 2014 @09:16AM (#46185491) Homepage Journal

        Dress Codes? Man, we didn't have dress codes when I worked at NASA 10 years ago. That's sad.

        [John]

        • I guess the poster didn't really claim to work for NASA. So maybe that don't actually have dress codes?

          • The big boss types usually show up in a suit. The rest of us are anywhere from jeans and t-shirt to buisness casual depending on personal tastes.
        • Just to be clear, I have never worked for the government. But I have friends who are 'permatemp' contractors. I've seen their offices and culture. No thanks.
          • by Bigbutt (65939)

            Okay. I was a contractor for 13 years at NASA Headquarters in downtown DC (bofh (at) hq (dot) nasa (dot) gov :) ). We (IT) spent our time in the Data Center (even got OSHA dinged for cubicles next to the air handlers). At HQ, the environment was pretty good. The main Government IT guy was damned smart and ahead of his time. When other NASA centers were shut down due to the ILoveYou virus, we were still up and running without a problem. So having all the centers using a single contractor for help desk and ot

          • Don't worry it was quite obvious you didn't know your subject matter.
        • by NoWhereMan (3539)

          It is possible that different Centers have different codes, but Dryden (or should I now say Armstrong) does not enforce a dress code. I wear a tie for personal reasons but that means I am overdressed.

          ACES typically sends out low skill people who can swap parts. The brighter ones realize that their customers may be engineers who would be considered power users in any organization. When the ACES people listen to their customer, they frequently find a good solution. But then they have to go back to their p

      • Re:Typical.... (Score:5, Interesting)

        by DoofusOfDeath (636671) on Friday February 07, 2014 @09:17AM (#46185503)

        Agreed. As a former U.S. govt. employee, I can honestly say that the red tape is 70% of why I left. Between security ("IA") policies that gave no consideration to productivity, and purchasing requirements that ignored opportunity costs and red-tape-compliance labor costs, I just didn't feel like I'd get as much software developed during my career as I wanted to.

        • I'm in the middle of a stint as a contractor. My PM keeps the red tape away from me and shields me from morons as much as he can. He's awesome, but this job still sucks SO bad. I am surrounded by people who can't find work anywhere else... they're like the inhabitants of Davey Jonses Locker in the Pirates of the Caribbean movies... growing into the chairs and office furniture, with no hope of escape. Helpless and hopeless. On the plus side, my moderate competence makes me a rock star around here.

          I'll be

      • Re:Typical.... (Score:5, Insightful)

        by Dcnjoe60 (682885) on Friday February 07, 2014 @10:09AM (#46186023)

        I would counter that this is reallly a problem with government IT contracts. In many government entities, at least the ones I've worked with, new projects are assigned to contractors/consultants and the existing staff handles maintenance. Often, the winning bidders don't even have the proper skill set and the contract includes training their employees. This practice started heavily after tightening budgets. Outsourcing was seen as a way to cut costs and in the short term it does, but not over the life of the project. The problem with this approach is that it leads to bloat and feature creep. The more the consultatnts can get you to expand your project, the more they make. Often, they tend to underbid the contract and overprice modifications, of which there are always many (if management new exactly what they wanted, they probably wouldn't need the contractors).

        Prior to this, government entities had their own programming staff that was familiar with the business, the culture and what needed to be done. If a project failed, there were employees under your direct control that you could hold accountable. If the internal budget for the project was $X and it was now about to go over that, then there was some explaining to do. Employees worked to keep on budget and on time, because they, too, had their necks on the line.

        For entities that still use their own internal staff, they tend to have less grandious projects, but they tend to finish on time and under budget, or at least closer to those two goals.

        There is a myth that fewer employees means a more efficient and less costly entity. The reality is different. The myth is only true if the organization were over staffed and under performing to begin with, which is a management problem, not a worker problem.

        The most common reason given for outsouricng is cost savings. But, outsourcing has shown, time and time again, that it is more costly in the long run. Contractors are paid more for the job than employees and the firm has a profit figured in. (Look at Snowden, he was paid double of what the equivelant network engineer that was a government employee was paid, plus the pay of his supervisors and the profit to the shareholders).

        The second most common reason is that the existing staff doesn't have the skills needed. But again, history shows us that if the skills in question are really needed now, they will be needed in the future, too. Again, this is a management issue dealing with training, not a lack of worker skills. Besides, all of these skilless employees are going to need to somehow get the skills to maintain the software once it is turned over by the consultants.

        Finally, the third reason is budget constraints. That is valid, however, only to the point that the projects are held to their actual budget. Since all of these projects that are outsourced tend to go way over budget and still have to be paid for because they are written as cost plus, claiming budget constraints is disengenous.

        Managers do like contractors, because it gives them somebody external to blame for their own internal failures. It is a lot easier to fire a contractor than it is the person sitting in the cubicle for the past ten years.

        In the end, if you want to reign in spending on a project (whether IT or otherwise), bringing it in house is shown to be the most economical way. OTOH, all of those mega consulting firms that lobby congress, don't let that message get out.

        • Re:Typical.... (Score:4, Informative)

          by Bigbutt (65939) on Friday February 07, 2014 @10:39AM (#46186315) Homepage Journal

          As a contractor, I was always looking for work. One company I worked for when I was at Johns Hopkins APL would immediately "release" you if work ended. My manager came to me and said that when the contract ended in six months, I would be let go because they had no requirement for network engineers. Since looking for work while unemployed is more difficult than when employed, I immediately started looking for another job. That's when I went to work at NASA.

          So I'm going to stretch my job out as much as possible since I like being able to eat regularly.

          [John]

        • by jafac (1449)

          . . . or to put it more simply: a cash-gift to executive staff at HP, from congress grateful for a couple of bucks campaign contributions, all paid for by the taxpayer.

        • by shugah (881805) on Friday February 07, 2014 @01:37PM (#46188209)
          I work as a consultant in both the public and private sector, so my perspective on this is a bit different. I've worked for the big firms, but now work through a network of other boutique consulting firms to deliver larger projects. Each of your points has a counter argument and counter evidence. I will say that I don't think anyone gets their money's worth from the big firms. Their rates are too high and while they may have access to the right expertise, after the first week of the engagement the specialists are all gone and the client left with the B team. I've been approached many times to subcontract under one of the big firms and I've so far turned them down because they are so arrogant. They usually don't want to actually use my specific industry expertise, they just want my CV to bolster their bid. They trust their endless pool of resources and standardized methodologies to make up for their lack of expertise.

          I'd also like to point out that the failure rate of IT projects in general is very high (close to 70%) with little to no difference between in house and out sourced projects. I would add that a sizable portion of my work is refocusing (or replacing / undoing) projects that were started in house and went off the rails. I also know the flip side is also true - failing external projects are brought in house just as often.

          There are several good (and some bad) reasons to bring in consultants.;

          When you don't have the skills in house, or when your in house skills are fully utilized on other projects it makes sense to hire contractors. Contrary to popular belief, most IT staff do not spend most of their day playing Minecraft or streaming episodes of The Big Bang Theory at work. Most IT staff I'm familiar with work 50 - 60 hours per week and have weeks of backloged operations support and in house projects. Expecting them to add yet another major project off the side of their desk is a strategy for failure. Contractors (can) bring focus. I usually only work on 1 or at most 2 major project at a time.

          Hiring staff for projects is not easy and not always the best idea. When you hire someone you invest in recruiting, training, benefits, pension, etc. because you expect that person to be with you, and productive for at least 3 - 5 years. If you hire people just for a project, at the end of the project you can end up with staff who are either under utilized or under motivated because their skills and/or ambitions are no longer what you need. Alternatively, you could end up creating projects with shaky business cases just because you have some in house resources. As a consultant, while I love to be re-engaged for subsequent work, I have no expectation of such. My best marketing is to get the job done. I usually include a post implementation review 2 - 3 months after the project. For me, this is a sales opportunity, but it is also an opportunity for the client to evaluate and learn from the implementation. This is something that doesn't always happen with in house projects.

          When people say contractors get paid more than in house staff they are not seeing the whole picture. The things I mentioned above - recruiting costs, training costs, benefits, pensions, health insurance, vacations, paid breaks, statutory holidays, office space, admin support and HR support are all costs for internal staff that are either paid by or not applicable to contractors. Additionally, I carry errors and omissions and liability insurance - where the client company is entirely on the hook for the errors, omissions and liability risk of its employees. Finally, contractors can only bill hours actually worked on the project (or in some cases, a fixed price) where staff are paid regardless of utilization. When you factor all of those things in, experienced staff with equivalent expertise are often paid/cost more than contractors.

          The biggest problem with outsourced projects is often in procurement. I haven't seen very many good procurement departments. They are often eith
    • Re:Typical.... (Score:4, Insightful)

      by Rockoon (1252108) on Friday February 07, 2014 @09:08AM (#46185413)

      This is what happens when you under fund the IT budget

      Throwing $2.5 billion at "desktops, laptops, computer equipment and end-user services such as help desk and data backup" doesnt sound like underfunding IT to me.

      • Re:Typical.... (Score:5, Informative)

        by tsqr (808554) on Friday February 07, 2014 @10:15AM (#46186075)

        Throwing $2.5 billion at "desktops, laptops, computer equipment and end-user services such as help desk and data backup" doesnt sound like underfunding IT to me.

        You're right; it wouldn't be, if that's what they were doing, which they aren't. TFA is pretty enlightening; you should read the first couple of pages.

        This is an Indefinite Delivery, Indefinite Quantity contract with a potential worth of $2.5B. IDIQ means a phased program where whether the vendor gets to continue supplying products and services, depends on whether the customer is (1) satisfied with past performance, and (2) convinced that that the program is meeting its goals. This is not a case of "Here's $2.5 Billion. There's more where that came from; please do your best." If this ends up with $2.5B spent and goals not meant, then NASA will have seriously screwed up. That's the sort of result that IDIQ contracts are designed to prevent.

        This contract is for more than computers, help desk and data backup; NASA wants to migrate from a balkanized IT structure to an enterprise structure, which is a massive cultural change. Unsurprisingly, the NASA managers whose empires consist of the disparate parts of the IT structure are not exactly embracing the new order of things.

        • Re:Typical.... (Score:4, Interesting)

          by PPH (736903) on Friday February 07, 2014 @11:34AM (#46186911)

          NASA wants to migrate from a balkanized IT structure to an enterprise structure, which is a massive cultural change.

          Which is another way of enforcing a "one size fits all" IT support scheme. Everybody gets MS Office on Windows 8. You poor slobs that do embedded software development, highly demanding data analysis or have some peculiar h/w or s/w requirements, tough shit.

          When you have a 'balkanized' IT structure, at least you have the opportunity to optimize platforms for their intended use. The problem is that you can't take advantage of a central maintenance and support department. You have little groups of people who specialize on these odd cases. And when things are done in house, its difficult to track these costs.

          Now, turn it over to an outside contractor and the present you with an itemized bill for the oddball stuff. A bill for Real Money. And since they are motivated to maximize profits/minimize their costs, they soak you for the non standard configurations. Now, your management comes around with this monthly bill and starts pounding people over the head to explain their specialized needs or conform. Every damned quarter (or month). Pretty soon, you need to dedicate some direct staff to handle the exception documentation. Or spend half your life in meetings yourself.

          • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

            by tsqr (808554)

            Is your comment based on an unfortunate personal experience? I have worked as an engineer for two aerospace behemoths, with tens of thousands of employees at locations spread out all over the country. In both cases, IT was centralized, and that brought with it a high degree of conformity with respect to operating systems and common software tools such as MS Office; however, the engineering types didn't have any trouble at all in obtaining, installing, and using whatever specialized tools (including altern

            • by PPH (736903)

              Is your comment based on an unfortunate personal experience? I have worked as an engineer for two aerospace behemoths,

              Interesting. I worked for one as well.

              the engineering types didn't have any trouble at all in obtaining, installing, and using whatever specialized tools (including alternative operating systems) they required to do their jobs.

              Define 'trouble'. I worked for several bosses. One of them just said, "Screw it. Install whatever you need to get your job done." The other one ran around with a report that listed 'non-conforming systems' (i.e. not Microsoft) and whined like a little puppy about not making managements goal of 100% conformity (get rid of non-Microsoft systems).

              IT's part of that was limited to procurement.

              So was ours. And if it wasn't on the 'approved' list, it could take months to get. And they'd inspect every incoming package. Mo

      • by Anonymous Coward

        I just started a new job at a NASA contractor, and ACES is *awesome* compared to IT at Lockheed Martin. As an engineer, LM's IT did their best to get in the way and hamper productivity, including "demoting" me from an engineering laptop to a standard laptop even though I wrote and ran some of the most demanding software and would have benefited greatly from the i7 vs the low end i5 I ended up with. My formerly 15 minute desktop simulations stretched to 40 minutes apiece.

        Oh, but you can bet LM saved a coup

        • by sconeu (64226)

          I was subbed to LMSC for a while, and I can confirm that LM IT is a pain in the ass. Hell, logging in took at least 15 minutes, as all the management crapware on the system ran.

          You wold literally log in, and then walk away for a cup of coffee.

          And Engineers had to beg through 5 layers of management to get access to dev tools.

    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      If the IT Director could do all that the rest of the board wouldn't understand a thing he said. An IT Directors job is to translate technical concerns into the Management Moron spoken in the adminisphere so the rest of the board can make informed decisions without knowing what the hell they're doing.

      Welcome to Management One on One

      • by Dcnjoe60 (682885)

        If the IT Director could do all that the rest of the board wouldn't understand a thing he said. An IT Directors job is to translate technical concerns into the Management Moron spoken in the adminisphere so the rest of the board can make informed decisions without knowing what the hell they're doing.

        Welcome to Management One on One

        No, an IT Director is there to ensure that the effectiveness of the organization's mission is maximized through the use of information technology. To accomplish that, he/she must do what you said, but that is not the role of the IT Director. (BTW, if this were for corporation, instead of government, the role would be to maximze shareholder value through the use of information technology).

    • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

      by alen (225700)

      having worked in the government before, half the problems were people insisting their ancient programs work on the new systems and a refusal to change to current versions

      i remember i had people saying that they can't use anything other than Lotus or Wordperfect. then complained they couldn't open MS Word documents

    • Re:Typical.... (Score:5, Interesting)

      by ebh (116526) <ebh-slashdot@hyp ... .org minus berry> on Friday February 07, 2014 @09:19AM (#46185529) Journal

      No, this is what happens when you underTHINK the IT budget. HP and other services organizations want you to believe that all you have to do is write them a check, and all your IT troubles will magically disappear. Instead, what really happens is that all your problems are still there, with one more layer of bureaucratic delays and miscommunications thrown in. The company I work for outsourced their IT to HP, going so far as to sell a lot of their server infrastructure (the actual hardware) to HP, and it's been a disaster, only part of which is HP's fault.

      • You and I must work for the same company...sounds exactly like our experience.

        The scary bit is HP is in the process of moving our corporate datacenter from our location to their location in Atlanta....once that is done how do we ever get rid of HP?

        • by ebh (116526)

          We had to fight HARD to keep our critical servers from being moved to Atlanta. There's plenty of bandwidth, but the latency would kill us. But every time we need anything, it's like Oliver Twist asking for more gruel.

    • Re:Typical.... (Score:5, Interesting)

      by Crudely_Indecent (739699) on Friday February 07, 2014 @09:26AM (#46185583) Journal

      In my life I've had only one boss that respected IT personnel. None of them were technical, and had some strange image in their heads of a magical fairy land where us IT folk would wave our wands and shit would get done.

      I had one non-programmer boss who proposed an amazing CONTACT FORM to her bosses, and I was required to be there so I could take notes and implement it. After watching her presentation, I was asked if I had any questions or comments. I had comments. Gems like: "Why am I putting EACH FIELD on a separate page? That's going to cause the users to submit the form 10 times before they're done" and "I'm supposed to look these addresses up in the CRM, but the CRM guys have plainly stated over the years that they will never ever Ever EVER let anyone query their DB, did something change?".

      By the end of the meeting, the contact form was cancelled and my new task was to make a slideshow screensaver for someone's special project.

    • Why hire a nerd who can build one system at a time?

      Hire someone who writes the contract so HP doesn't get paid in the situation where they fuck up.

  • by arth1 (260657) on Friday February 07, 2014 @08:56AM (#46185293) Homepage Journal

    Those problems include 'a failed effort to replace most NASA employees' computers within the first six months and low customer satisfaction,'

    Those problems include 'a failed effort to replace all Slashdot contributors' commenting system within the first four months and low customer satisfaction.

  • by sandytaru (1158959) on Friday February 07, 2014 @08:58AM (#46185317) Journal
    NASA: We want you to make our computers awesome.
    HP: How awesome?
    NASA: The awesomest!
    HP: So how awesome is awesomest?
    NASA: As awesome as you can make it.
    HP: Okay, that'll be two billion dollars.
    NASA: Deal! Yay we get awesome new computers, and an an awesome new software system, that will do all sorts of cool things like be our ERP solution and our CAD software and our entire core infrastructure solution...
    HP: Yay, we just made a ton of money! So.... what exactly did they want again?
  • I can't stand the new Slashdot. I hate being referred to as "Audience" when we are making this site happen. If I wanted CNET, I'd go to CNET.
    • by TWiTfan (2887093)

      We're just passive viewers to Dice. "To you, the lucky receivers of Dice's glorious semen, we dedicate this wonderful new beta site. It is our gift to you, the unwashed masses!"

  • by itsdapead (734413) on Friday February 07, 2014 @09:01AM (#46185343)

    Sorry - I don't understand the article. Too much text on the page confuses me.

    Please could you re-print it with double-line spacing and a large bit of generic stock photography of a rocket or something so I know what it is about?

    Maybe a big chunk of white-space at the top so I'm not confronted with a whole paragraph of text on the first screen.

    Also, the screen appeared too suddenly and made me jump - which is dangerous because today is my first day wearing my big boy pants. Maybe more javascript effects would slow it down?

    Yours,
    A.N. Audience

    • Your complaint is so yesterday morning. Timothy issued a (sort of) mea culpa yesterday [slashdot.org].

      • by PGC (880972) on Friday February 07, 2014 @09:16AM (#46185489)
        That was not a mea culpa. That was a "please shut up".
        • Re: (Score:2, Interesting)

          by DoofusOfDeath (636671)

          I somewhat disagree. I thought it had elements of both (a) f you, you're not our only audience and we know better than you and (b) we're sorry the implementation sucks balls and we'll fix it.

          I'd say it's a mea culpa regarding the less important stuff, and a big f u regarding the more important stuff.

      • Oh, and BTW, I thought your post was very funny.

      • by TWiTfan (2887093)

        That wasn't a mea culpa, it was the digital equivalent of a form letter saying "Thanks, valued customer. We appreciate your input."

      • That was not a mea culpa. That was an insult that we are their 'audience'. This is like a bee keeper thinking that the bees are his audience.

        Bees make honey. You can set up bee boxes and have bees live in the boxes and make honey that you can harvest. But the bees are free to leave at any time. They only reason they stay is because it is attractive to be there. Try making the bee box unusable and the bees will just go build a beehive elsewhere. Don't believe it? They've been building beehives for a lot
    • by TWiTfan (2887093)

      Sorry - I don't understand the article. Too much text on the page confuses me.

      And why are they letting the audience *comment* on it?? Shouldn't an audience just applaud politely?

  • Imagine (Score:5, Insightful)

    by JWW (79176) on Friday February 07, 2014 @09:05AM (#46185379)

    Imagine you're a NASA worker with a nice (albeit old) Macbook computer to do your work on.

    Some schmuck walks up to you with a brand new hp laptop with Windows 8 on it to replace your Mac.

    I fail to see the scenario where the NASA worker _shouldn't_ enthusiastically shun the "helper" from hp.

    When the choice is between something nice and functioning and a crappy os on a crappy piece of hardware, the choice is easy.

    The problem with these "one size fits all" contracts is that one size does not fit all situations ever.

    If hp wants to make this contract successful they should be forced to offer multiple options through multiple vendors where they take a cut to manage the maintenance and configuration of any of the possible selected systems.

    • Re: (Score:2, Insightful)

      by Anonymous Coward

      When the choice is between something nice and functioning and a crappy os on a crappy piece of hardware, the choice is easy.

      SO TRUE! That's why he's getting the HP!

    • This is absolutely true, but with one caveat: NASA shouldn't either write an RFP asking for "one size fits all" proposals, or shouldn't award the contract to a vendor who proposes doing that if that's not what they want. From the report, it sounds like that's what happened.

    • by jafac (1449)

      It's not simple "OS preference" either.

      Many NASA workers (and others in scientific or engineering fields) have workflows that require certain software, that may be platform specific, for which, there is no viable alternative. Especially on Linux, there are a lot of highly customized applications for doing the kind of image processing and data collection that doesn't exist on other platforms, and more especially, may have been written by NASA employees in the first place. HP's not going to port that. They'

    • by jhol13 (1087781)

      In my previous job I had quite a nice laptop. Except one thing ... I quite often needed to process multigigabyte files (situation was made worse by an anti-virus). So I asked for an upgrade, an SSD. They proposed to replace the whole machine with a new one, without SSD. I, of course, declined, it would not help at all.

      One size does fit all, albeit sometimes very badly. Besides, they do not care, they just provide what is decided (by those who do not understand my problems).

  • by Anonymous Coward

    HP FAILED to live up to their contractual obligations and we're blaming government?

    FUCK THIS SITE.

  • NASA's website (Score:4, Interesting)

    by Altanar (56809) on Friday February 07, 2014 @09:17AM (#46185501)
    This from an organization that, when they recently redesigned their website, *still* didn't get around to forwarding http://nasa.gov/ [nasa.gov] to http://www.nasa.gov [nasa.gov]? Who would've thought?
  • One wonders if the government will start insourcing IT projects again since their outsourced service providers seem to suck.

    • I'm pretty sure that the Inherent Superiority of the Private Sector is an axiom, not an empirical conclusion open to reevaluation in light of new data...

      (Plus, even outside of the kool aide drinkers, is someone who would feel rewarded if you gave him a job, rather than a big, cushy, contract going to make a worthwhile campaign donor?)
    • by CastrTroy (595695)
      I realize why they outsource, because they believe in the market and think they will get the best deal. However the government needs enough IT work done that they could hire their own army of IT workers. A whole organization who's only mandate is to provide IT services to all the other departments in the government.
      • I realize why they outsource, because they believe in the market and think they will get the best deal. However the government needs enough IT work done that they could hire their own army of IT workers. A whole organization who's only mandate is to provide IT services to all the other departments in the government.

        I don't think it's just that. The federal civil service laws make it very hire to lay people off (because they're no longer needed) or to fire them (because they suck). This means that staffing up for a big project is by incurs a long-term obligation to pay workers, many of whom you no longer want, need, or should be spending budget on.

        It's way easier to get rid of contractors.

        • by Tridus (79566)

          Contractors also cost a lot more, doubly so when you factor in that you have to keep paying them well past the end of the contract to fix all the screwups.

          The government needs enough people that it isn't going to need to increase or decreasing staffing by large amounts regularly, and if it does it can fill those gaps with contractor developers.

          Hiring contracting companies to do things is just a recipe for failure.

          • by Grishnakh (216268)

            Contractors also cost a lot more, doubly so when you factor in that you have to keep paying them well past the end of the contract to fix all the screwups.

            Yes, but which costs more, over the long term: hiring contractors with these problems, or hiring regular employees who are nearly impossible to get rid of when they're either no longer needed or don't perform?

            • by CastrTroy (595695)
              The way I see it, If you set up a separate department that deals with IT projects, they you are pretty much guaranteed to need those employees. When one project is over, there's another project to do. Plus with all the projects being done in the same place, there's a much higher chance of code and other aspects being reused. Even looking at hardware there's big savings. If 2 different departments need to order some new machines, they can probably get a better deal from the manufacturer if they both order
            • by PPH (736903)

              The idea situation is to keep sufficient staff to handle ongoing tasks and hire contractors for occasional increases in workload. There are downside to this as well. Bringing outsiders in to build stuff that they will be able to walk away from at the end of the contract is a recipe for disaster if their work isn't done to the satisfaction of the customer and in-house IT staff (the people that will get stuck with it afterward).

              It all comes down to managing the outsourcing contracts properly. And that's pro

  • They'd have it implemented already whether you wanted it or not.

  • Don't forget to renew that failed contract. If you don't have a contract or warranty active they'll charge you for things as simple as firmware downloads for the hardware they couldn't get delivered and configured on time.

  • by plasticsquirrel (637166) on Friday February 07, 2014 @09:30AM (#46185637)

    I was reading this review of Slashdot Beta made last October, which shows a variety of screenshots and also has explanations from Timothy in it.

    http://www.tweaktown.com/news/33368/slashdot-launches-redesigned-website-in-beta-form-we-check-it-out/index.html [tweaktown.com]

    Honestly, I was impressed by at least some of the reasoning, and I can see how some changes would actually be positive. The problem, though, is that not all the changes are good, and it's far too much at once. There is a potential to lose what is special about Slashdot including its moderation system. They need to examine Beta and see and what needs to change for it to be accepted by the Slashdot community. Off the top of my head:

    1. Less whitespace, fewer pictures: Slashdot is all about the text and what the community writes here. It needs to be clear and easy to see a lot of information at one time. How many times do we have to say this? Just change the fucking CSS already.
    2. The moderation system needs to either stay the same or change only slightly. Major changes are going to disrupt the community and the flow of the discussion. Nobody wants Slashdot reduced to +1 and -1 like this is Facebook and we're all retards posting pictures of hamburgers and ugly babies.
    3. It would be nice if someone from Dice had the balls or the ovaries enough to make a formal apology to the community about how this has been handled. This isn't all Timothy's problem, and he shouldn't have to take all the heat. The future direction of Slashdot is the responsibility of Dice and Alice, so they should be responding and taking responsibility.
    4. Stop forcing everyone to switch over and stop forcing redirection until the actual site is finished. To do otherwise is confusing and disrespectful. Wait until you have a finished product.
    5. Do a better job explaining everything to the community and respecting the community. Hell, we would be doing a lot of this work for you and making recommendations for you, but Beta was forced on everyone without proper feedback (not to mention the fact that Beta is still unusable and broken).

    Here's a real and serious recommendation for Timothy if he wants Beta to eventually succeed without disrupting the Slashdot community: do redirections one day out of the week, and on that one day, have a story posted by Timothy asking the community for feedback -- one day each week for experimentation ("Slashdot Labs Day"). Then for the next 6 days, they can fix the site, while readers continue to use the classic interface. Keep doing that until the big problems in Beta are ironed out and the community is halfway satisfied with it. That is seriously a simple and reliable way that they could fix this and make people happy again. You can take that one to the bank. Unfortunately I don't know if they have the sense to do so because they haven't accepted feedback very well and they haven't kept in contact with the community.

  • on coming up with an acronym and not enough on proper planning and execution. This seems to be an endemic problem with our government. Beaurocracy at its best!
  • hey, look over here! (Score:4, Interesting)

    by argStyopa (232550) on Friday February 07, 2014 @09:51AM (#46185865) Journal

    In a sense, this is "look how incompetent the government is at implementing tech" story, but in another this could be interpreted as an attempt to trivialize what happened with healthcare.gov. "Oh gosh, nothing ever goes right for the government so what happened with healthcare.gov is par for the course (shrug)."

    Except the healthcare.gov disaster was LEGISLATIVE, the constant, ongoing, still-unresolved tech catastrophe was only the impact-crater.

    The fact that NASA's computer-replacement program was a boondoggle was meaningless, compared to the tech-failure of a program whose use was MANDATED by law.

  • And Slashdot Beta is a disaster of a project too ...

    Was it done by the same contractors for Healthcare.gov? No, it was mandated by clueless Dice executives ...

    Anyone who sees this kind of backlash should immediately back off, not just say : "We are staying the course ..." GWB style ...

    • by Joepie69 (2705533)
      Maybe Dice can hire HP Enterprise to update/cleanup/rewrite the Beta ? Guarantueed we can enjoy the classic another 5 years or so ... Yes... the beta sucks
  • Basically ANY time you bring a government into the mix, you get massive cost multiplications, shitty design, worse implementation, and just all-around craptastic workmanship. Meanwhile, everyone sits there, pointing fingers at everyone else.

    And don't even get me started on graft and corruption.

    Seriously, look at fucking social security in this country. The coffers for SS have been robbed from so much that there just isn't money enough to continue supporting the program. But it's a massive cash influx for

  • This has been happening sice at least the 1980's. The distressing part is that there seems to be no learning. The same mistakes are made over and over again.

  • "There are four ways in which you can spend money. You can spend your own money on yourself. When you do that, why then you really watch out what you’re doing, and you try to get the most for your money. Then you can spend your own money on somebody else. For example, I buy a birthday present for someone. Well, then I’m not so careful about the content of the present, but I’m very careful about the cost. Then, I can spend somebody else’s money on myself. And if I spend somebody else
  • But I see Dice is convinced that piling on to sunk costs for a broken project is a great strategy for success. Tells you all you need to know about the company. Web gazillion.0 idiots at their best! Arrogance and idiocy all rolled into a big steamer delivered fresh to your browser every day!

    Fuck beta!

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