Why Obamacare is collapsing.

Government is not very good at constructing software or IT systems. The FBI spent a decade with a troubled software project, then abandoned it.

Some FBI officials began raising doubts about the bureau’s attempts to create a computerized case management system as early as 2003, two years before the $170 million project was abandoned altogether, according to a confidential report to the House Appropriations Committee.

By 2004, the report found, the FBI had identified 400 problems with early versions of the troubled software — but never told the contractor. The bureau also went ahead with a $17 million testing program last December, even though it was clear by then that the software would have to be scrapped, according to the review.

The 32-page report — prepared by the House committee’s Surveys and Investigations staff and obtained by The Washington Post — indicates that the FBI passed up numerous chances to cut its losses with the doomed Virtual Case File (VCF), instead forging ahead with a system that ultimately cost taxpayers more than $100 million in wasted expenditures.

This is the history of complex government projects like this. They will not hire private companies and let them design these projects. Banks use ATM software that is far more complex and which works reliably.

Now Obamacare is the latest failure. I have been predicting this for a year. The electronic medical record software is another boondoggle. It increases workload and is not secure. Now the exchange IT systems are not ready and will not be for a decade, if ever.

“It’s the joyous, simultaneous, nonlinear equation from hell,” said Kip Piper, a former top official at HHS and OMB who is now a consultant in close contact with IT vendors. Piper said it’s no surprise that the administration has given up on certain functions given the technological complexity needed and the short time-frame.

But the long-term nature of the bad news could be good news for those who hope that the new marketplaces will launch in some form on time.

The struggles with technology and administrative complexity have not come as a recent surprise to administration officials; they’ve been negotiating them for months already. By eliminating non-essential tasks, they may be violating the letter of the health reform law, with its rigorous timetables and multiple requirements, but they may be more likely to get the core functions right.

Or wrong as the case may be.

The FBI experience is revealing:

The system was part of Trilogy, a $581 million FBI program that includes a new computer network and thousands of new high-speed personal computers for agents and analysts. VCF would have been the final major step in the upgrade, providing a modern database for storing case information and allowing agents to share and search files electronically.

Numerous outside experts and panels have criticized the FBI’s paper-based records system as outmoded and inefficient, and the commission that investigated the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks concluded that the shortcomings may have contributed to the failure to detect the al Qaeda plot. The Justice Department’s inspector general warned in February that the FBI’s continuing technology problems had “national security implications” and that agents were “significantly hampered” in their efforts to prevent terrorism and combat other serious crimes.

The new report, which is not scheduled for public release, reveals that “some officials involved in VCF’s development began to see problems” in early 2003, about a year after the FBI and its contractor, Science Applications International Corp., began focusing on creating the case management software.

That report is from 2005. My daughter is an FBI agent. They finally abandoned the whole thing last year and have begun from scratch.

Obamacare will not be functional by 2020. They will lie about it and fake it but the thing will be a complete mess.

Magan McArdle has more on the changes. All that is happening is that all cost control is stripped out. All that is left is the spending.

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2 Responses to “Why Obamacare is collapsing.”

  1. norcal says:

    The immigration service is trying to do the same thing. They’re trying to convert all paper files and applications into a computerized case management system. It’s been going on for years, and will probably end up the same way as the FBI project.

  2. doombuggy says:

    I’ve heard talk of declining abilities in the modern age (a shrinking space program, movies are mostly remakes), and gov’t spending like this seems to be an indicator. We fought WWII and did the Tennessee Valley Authority, but now we only seem able to fund bridges to nowhere and print money.