Jump to content
The Wifcon Forums and Blogs

Recommended Posts

I have been watching the rollout and blowback concerning the Healthcare.gov release issues and watched the committee hearings on this with interest. I was wondering what people have thought about this generally. There are some who blame the contractors and some blame HHS. It was just a matter of time before people started asking questions about the contracts, and play the blame the CO game (it has already started...how COs could allow this to happen? Isn't it your job to prevent this?).

This, to me, is the drawback of an overly architected, prescriptive, and incredibly complex system, the result of which could have been predetermined. Simplicity scales, but this program was not constructed in such a way, and few large scale IT projects in the federal government are. It is reported that there are over 55 seperate systems that make for the underlying architecture for this to work. Anyone in the federal government who needs to tie in multiple IT systems (often poorly designed legacy systems), never mind 50+ that is reported know that these complications were unavoidable. They will be doing system work on this for the next 10-20 years.

I will be interested to know not only the number of contractors involved, but how their contracts were written and applied. How these seperate pieces were cobbled together not only from a systems perspcetive, but how they were cobbled together from a contractual perspective. Agile IT and agile contracting is one of the newer trends and appear to be a glib way at addressing complexity. One of the results that we can predict in the federal procurement community will be some sort of directive (Executive or FAR-based) will include the preferance for agile contracting methods, as they had done with performance work statements and other situational solutions in the past.

My dissertation looks like it is staring me in the face with these recent events. This will be a fascinating case study to discect from a number of angles (contract formation, acquisition planning, requriements writting and definition, etc...) in any event.

I would welcome people's thoughts or perspectives on the recent news and its relationship to CO and COR communities. My guess is...prepare for the fallout (again).

Link to comment
Share on other sites

I have been thinking about this too. I believe part of the challenge was figuring out what they system actually needed to accomplish. Recall that the law is very long and complex...how do you design a system to implement it when know one knows what the law says/requires?

I have, however, read some rumors that HHS used an IDIQ and there is some debate as to whether it got competition. I'm sure it will all come out, and even if HHS contracts folks did nothing wrong, I'm sure they can expect to be second guessed to death. Because, bascially, that's easier than actually dealing with the underlying complexity problems. The response will be, "More CO and COR training."

Link to comment
Share on other sites

Guest Jason Lent

I understand that there is a blanket contract (think the Air Force's NETCENTS or Army's CHESS program) which had 16 contractors holding contracts. The solicitation was sent to all 16 contract holders, the Government received 4 proposals, and awarded the contract to the current awardee. From what I picked up from quick research, that agency has a lot of problems documented by GAO with regards to contract admin and ensuring proper contractor performance. There are plenty of cries that the awardee was a company owned by someone who went to college with the First Lady, so of course competition will be questioned. Then again, if "CEO went to college with someone important in the Government" is reasonable grounds for a conflict of interest, then I don't know how any can expect to award anything more complex than a contract for office furniture.

Link to comment
Share on other sites

And here comes more: http://thehill.com/blogs/healthwatch/health-reform-implementation/189224-in-wake-of-botched-rollout-obama-to-seek-it

Procurement reform in terms of Information Technology has been a fairly constant topic for the past few years and has slowly gaining momentum. FITRA begins the conversation but my last read of the proposed legislation does not have a heavy FAR bent (other than the federal government proposing a price and letting vendors base technical submissions against the pre-set price identified). But don't be surprised if more FAR based changes that result. I do find it funny that people say it needs to change but never cite a specific FAR part or clause to change.

Link to comment
Share on other sites

  • 1 month later...

Because of past experiences, I have been interested in seeing what people are saying about this website development. From my own experience, the problem is not so much the procurement process as it is program management not up to the task of these massive IT projects. The procurement function can't substitute for good program management (and doesn't have the organizational clout to do it anyway). Of course, not even the Superman of PM could overcome politically imposed deadlines or constantly changing requirements.

I also see this as a governmental HR problem. It would appear (albeit from the outside) that there is insufficient appreciation in federal agencies for maintaining an adequate level of procurement, PM and IT expertise in the ranks of government employees. There are some things that contractors just can't do effectively. A recent NYTimes oped piece (http://www.nytimes.com/2013/10/25/opinion/getting-to-the-bottom-of-healthcaregovs-flop.html?_r=0)%C2'>suggested forming a Government Digital Service like they have in the UK at a pretty high level in the government to superintend this kind of massive IT project. I'm thinking something like this at the OMB level might be helpful.

So in addition to getting more feedback from the WIFCON community on this, I would be interested if there have been any specific FAR proposals as a response to the healthcare.gov fracas. I see that the President has been quoted as wanting to do something about IT procurement. Has anything been seen along this line?

Link to comment
Share on other sites

Guest
This topic is now closed to further replies.
 Share

×
×
  • Create New...