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Government NASA The Almighty Buck IT

US Government IT Outsourcing Is Poorly Managed (cio.com) 85

itwbennett writes: The U.S. government is spending way more than it has to on IT outsourcing. That's the finding of a report released in September by the Government Accountability Office that studied IT services outsourcing at three military branches within the Department of Defense, along with the Department of Homeland Security and the National Aeronautics and Space Administration. According to the report, while efforts to better manage their IT outsourcing had improved, most of these agencies' IT spending "continues to be obligated through hundreds of potentially duplicative contracts that diminish the government's buying power."
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US Government IT Outsourcing Is Poorly Managed

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  • I didn't see THAT coming!

    • I was going to say something about Captain Obvious, but I like what you said too..
    • by amicusNYCL ( 1538833 ) on Monday November 02, 2015 @02:13PM (#50848905)

      The words "IT Outsourcing" in the headline are unnecessary.

      • That person from the redundant Department of Redundancy again?

        • That person from the redundant Department of Redundancy again?

          Are you, perchance, referring to the Department of Redundancy Department (DRD)?

          • by s.petry ( 762400 )

            That person from the redundant Department of Redundancy again?

            Are you, perchance, referring to the Department of Redundancy Department (DRD)?

            Isn't the DRD the oversight on the RDR?

        • It's the Overly Redundant Department Of Redundancy. Also known as ORDER.
      • by prefec2 ( 875483 )

        No it is only in the wrong place. The correct headline is: US Government IT is poorly managed due to outsourcing.

        But that is still wrong, as the IT does perfectly what it should do. It costs money which goes to private corporations and it is ineffective. Therefore, it must be fixed by a private corporation, which will charge a ludicrous amount of money for that. In the end the mess will be ineffective. Therefore, it must be fixed by a private corporation, which will charge a ludicrous amount of money for th

        • by rtb61 ( 674572 )

          The more accurate title with just a little rearrangement and adding one work. US Government IT is outsourced badly due to being poorly managed by lobbyists. The goal of the lobbyists, maximise profits for the corporations paying them, so that they corporations will continue to pay them. Perversely enough, the worse the outcomes of the lobbyists management, when it comes to actually achieving the publicly claimed outcomes for that outsourcing, the more they get paid because the more corporations get paid t

    • The problem is with internal IT, is that if there is an issue, then there is someone within the organization to blame. The really hard jobs would go to the best employee, if it fails, then they will need to fire their best employee, or someone up the food chain if he kept adequate documents, stating that he said it was a stupid idea.
      If you outsource, then if something goes wrong, you just raise your arms up and say, "Well if these supposed experts can't do it right, then no one can" and if there is a big f

  • by Anonymous Coward on Monday November 02, 2015 @01:56PM (#50848721)

    with Edward Snowden.

    You don't have to hate or like the man to know they made a colossal mistake, giving a job away with a high level of access to a contractor.

  • by Anonymous Coward

    Why only a fraction of external IT service spending is actually managed via an established contracting model in this day and age is bafflingâ"...

    Don't you just want to slap people through the screen sometimes?

  • I see comments above talking about H1Bs and such. This is NOT outsourcing to India or anything like that. It's outsourcing to primarily U.S.-owned contractors, as opposed to U.S. Government (USG) employees. If you suggest that outsourcing is not the best technical solution, then you're suggesting the USG direct hires are as competent as those in industry. I can assure you that people don't switch to USG jobs for the technical challenges, however.
    • The people in the large contracting firms/body shops that the USG hires aren't as competent as most of those in industry, either.

      • by rhazz ( 2853871 )
        This. I work in the Canadian government and for we tend to hire a significant number of consultants for larger development projects. On average the consulting devs are only slightly better than our employee devs, but they always cost at least twice as much. We would do far better to attract more competent employees in the first place.
        • I worked in a couple of departments for the Canadian government and there were a lot of contractors for just the day to day stuff, especially in my last two jobs. It would help to get more of them to convert to employees if the environment was such a toxic cesspool. I was in one good group but we still had to deal with a lot of bad groups, managers fighting, and bad policies.

          We had a change of CIO and gave a presentation to a large group of us: Java developers; graphic designers; web developers; a couple o

        • As you work with the government, then you must know how mind bogglingly difficult it is to hire a permanent employee within the Canadian Federal Service? The process (and I'm serious), can take months and in some cases over a year. Any competent employee would be long gone before the process is complete
          • by rhazz ( 2853871 )
            Yes in my department the HR process of competition and hire for employees is ridiculous. It's one of many bureaucratic hurdles that makes hiring consultants easier. It's just one symptom of a larger problem - applying so many rules to ensure fairness, equity, transparency, etc, such that it's just easier to find some other way. My group has much better luck hiring students, since the process is not controlled by HR - manager approaches the school, does interviews, hires students. There is not a lot of overs
    • contractors add overhead and dead time due to rules.

      Like when they keep the same people but they roll from one firm to another firm with that triggering a new round of background checks.

      People who sit idle unable to work as they can't get a login / etc as there paper work is not done but they are placed on site (as that can happen with more then one firm in the chain) I was idled at an IRS office for about 1 mouth before they said the we have to many people on the overall contract and a lot of them where cu

      • I have had similar idling experiences working for state government as well as private companies. In Illinois we employ a large number contractors because it is very difficult to acquire talent. The rules are such that when hiring a direct employee the posting must be made available first to current state employees. They have first dibs. Only when there are no demonstrably (on paper) unqualified state employees put in for the position may it be posted to the public. And in that case there is so much red tap
    • It helps to understand that the money in government IT isn't made by working for the government, or working as a contractor for the government. It's made being the guy who sells that contract to the government, or otherwise works as management/executive level in the contracting company (and does absolutely zero IT/etc work).

      For the most part, the IT Fed and the IT Contractor are coming from the same pool of people. Many of them have bounced over at one point or another, and the overall salaries/benefits a
      • Some of them are pretty good, but others... less so. The best and brightest also tend to get lured away by the private sector.

        Hey! I resent that. I've been a civil servant working IT for the Navy for 23 years. And... um... I'm posting on Slashdot at 12:42 PM...

        OK, point taken.

  • By Design (Score:4, Insightful)

    by xxxJonBoyxxx ( 565205 ) on Monday November 02, 2015 @02:09PM (#50848845)

    >> U.S. government is spending way more than it has to on IT outsourcing.

    I thought this was by design.

  • by Anonymous Coward

    I have sad news for you. It's not just the government that has poorly managed outsourcing. Pretty much every organization has poorly managed outsourcing. It's a poorly captured cost of outsourcing.

    • by plopez ( 54068 )

      I've work for state and Federal Gov't. as well as small, mid-sized, and Fortune 500 companies. In my experience there is nothing as inefficient and wasteful as a Fortune 500 company. Small to mid-sized businesses were the leanest and most efficient, with gov't. coming in behind them.

  • Anyone who has worked a federal contract for more than a couple hours would know this. Guess it takes the GAO a decade or two to catch on eh? Or wait until it is somehow politically advantageous to acknowledge.
  • That certainly is shocking news.

  • by ErichTheRed ( 39327 ) on Monday November 02, 2015 @02:30PM (#50849103)

    Never thought I'd use this construct in a post, but...
    All IT outsourcing is poorly managed. FTFY

    The only difference between government and private sector is public scrutiny. I know lots of state IT workers (from the university system) and the universal refrain is that they don't even have budgets for the basics. This is a big departure from the right wing meme of government being awash in tax dollars and lavishly spending, and these aren't the stereotypical lazy worker types either. I think that a lot of the reality is that the money goes to outsourcing giants like HP, IBM, Accenture, etc. and it's wasted in the inefficiencies that this brings to light. I've been in lots of outsourced IT departments and do work for outsourcers. The problem with outsourcing is this -- the company doing the outsourcing is paying $X to maintain their own environment. To win the contract, the outsourcer has to come in at $X - $Y for the bid to be low enough to accept. (X - Y) has to be greater than their cost to make $Z off the deal, where $Z is positive margin. The business model of an outsourcer, therefore, is:
    - Provide the lowest/cheapest level of service possible to prevent the customer from cancelling the contract.
    - Offshore everything that doesn't require in-country staff.
    - Negotiate an open ended contract where almost nothing is spelled out, and all changes are billed on a time and materials basis.
    - Use this T&M framework to pump up profits by adding chargeable change orders for everything possible.
    - Bury the customer in endless levels of process, in the name of ITIL, service delivery excellence or whatever. This justifies a whole raft of change managers, project managers and analysts to write the documentation required for something that was previously done internally with much less effort.
    - Better yet, force the customer to adapt your Standard Operational Framework or whatever the outsourcer calls it. This means the same level of craziness, but you get to reuse processes across all your customers.
    - Slowly bleed out the on-site IT staff who knew anything. This makes it extremely difficult for the company to decide to insource again, or move to another vendor. After a long contract, they're essentially helpless without the vendor because anyone who knows anything doesn't work for the company anymore.

    Now, take that model and apply it to something as complex as a state or federal agency. Make all the records transparent, and wait for the media to run sensational stories about 'Your Tax Dollars are Being Wasted by Big Government." Private sector businesses waste tons of money on outsourcing too, but it's buried in all the accounting sleight of hand and certainly not out in the open for inspection.

    • by Anonymous Coward

      The only difference between government and private sector is public scrutiny.

      Well, that and private sector companies tend to wither and die if their outsourcing is poorly managed. Government, on the other hand, just continues to waste a colossal amount of resources because the taxpayers stupidly keep paying for it^H^H^H^H^H^H congress stupidly keeps borrowing to pay for it.

    • >> I know lots of state IT workers and the universal refrain is that they don't even have budgets for the basics. I think that a lot of the reality is that the money goes to outsourcing giants
      >> This is a big departure from the right wing meme of government being awash in tax dollars and lavishly spending

      Actually, if you order your sentences like this, you AGREE that government IS awash in tax dollars and IS lavishly spending. Welcome to the Tea Party, friend!

    • I agree with pretty much everything you've said. I could probably mention a ton of things, but I'll only add two:

      1) One of the big differences between Private and Government contracts, is the Government contact will have a lot of requirements that are mandatory, that no private one has to adhere to, all of which drive up costs. Things like FOI requests, and protection of personal information, all much stronger, in addition the procurement processes are usually supposed to be transparent and fair and because

      • by AHuxley ( 892839 )
        Re " sells software and contracting services almost entirely to government, which got bought out by another company, which also sells software and contracting services almost entirely to government, who basically rip off suckle at the government teat (taxpayer money)"
        Yes so much is now just front companies doing the work in other nations but they have a 100% US legal firm and security cleared US contractors to be their public face of the 100% made in the USA submitted gov paperwork. A legal "Knock-down ki
    • I know lots of state IT workers (from the university system) and the universal refrain is that they don't even have budgets for the basics. This is a big departure from the right wing meme of government being awash in tax dollars and lavishly spending, and these aren't the stereotypical lazy worker types either.

      If your metric for whether or not something is underfunded is if it could be improved by spending more money, then you fail at business. Everything can be improved by spending more money on it. Th

    • Oh so true. I have worked with various banks, and that is precisely what happens.

      Especially the part about "kill off internal knowledgeable staff, so changing back is impossible".

      It seems absurd, but I have seen interviews for "new' external outsourced folk actually occurring over Skype with a second person sitting next to the interviewee audibly whispering answers to questions.
      I have tried to take part in "meeting" which appear to be in an outdoor market in India, complete with market sellers yelling in th

  • The solution is obvious: gov't should outsource its managing of outsourcing. The private sector does it better!

  • IMO it's:
    s/US Government //
    I haven't seen an outsourcing project yet that's been well-managed. Usually it's because management sees the development teams as interchangeable, so they go about managing the outsourced project like they would've their in-house devs. Problem is that your in-house devs you can call into the office and threaten with loss of bonuses and/or job if they aren't getting things done right. You can't do that with the contractors though since they don't work for you and likely aren't e

  • This podcast is very good on how outmoded and dysfunctional a our government IT bidding is

      https://gimletmedia.com/episode/34-dmv-nation/

  • Is due to an act of Congress.

    WE are the enemy.

  • is poorly managed?

    Can someone please point me at any place that properly manages outsourced labor?

    I've yet to hear any good stories about outsourcing from people who have to deal with programmers in India, for example.

    And the people I know personally that have to travel to India to see "what the /fuck/ are you guys doing?!" and straighten it out, none of them are thrilled to have to do that part of their jobs. Every story I hear is tantamount to "shoveling shit against the tide."

    --
    BMO

  • by bravecanadian ( 638315 ) on Monday November 02, 2015 @06:08PM (#50851143)

    This isn't news to anyone in the trenches.

    In most companies that I have seen whose business was not technology related, the management treats IT like the computer janitors and incentivizes managers with the wrong things - almost always short term cost cutting at long term expense - all the time.

    Some time later the long term expense kicks in to fix all the issues the initial cost cutting created and then we start the cycle over again.

  • by whitroth ( 9367 ) <whitroth@NospAm.5-cent.us> on Monday November 02, 2015 @06:34PM (#50851369) Homepage

    It's all an fsck'in' fraud, and waste of tax dollars. Republican posturing "we save tax dollars by outsourcing, and not hiring"... is all bs. 100%

    First, either they're hiring people on starvation wages (like that guy who was in the papers during the Shutdown, who works as a cook at the American Indian Museum, who couldn't afford to rent an apartment by the month), or the rest of us (ObDisclosure: I work for a federal contractor).

    Let's see: I've been here over six years, a lot of folks I work with have been that, or more, including the woman who's been here AS A CONTRACTOR over 20 years. No, you do NOT "save" money: we're all getting benefits comparable to a fed employee... oh, and you're paying for our *company* project manager, and our *company* program manager, and, oh, yes, my company to make a profit.

    Right - this is *so* much cheaper than just *hiring* us, and not paying any of that overhead. (What's the loading - 12%? 20%? 30%?).

    And no, no company's going to do what we do - I mean, we won't add to the company profit in this quarter, so forget what we produce that many keep you alive five or ten years from now.

    And Ayn Rand lived the last years of her life on Social Security and Medicare.

                            mark, wondering when someone's going to sue
                                                        the government under the Microsoft
                                                        ruling

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