Obamacare Failures Show Procurement Reforms Still Needed

Image: Obamacare Failures Show Procurement Reforms Still Needed

Monday, 23 Dec 2013 10:17 AM

By Courtney Coren

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The recent failures of HealthCare.gov have highlighted changes that need to be made in how the government executes technology contracts, which many say is outdated and counterproductive.

While President Barack Obama has promised changes, little movement has been made in that direction, The New York Times reported Sunday.

The Standish Group, an independent information technology firm, found that when it comes to large-scale technology contracts that have been made over the last 10 years only 4.6 percent were successful. A majority were "challenged" and 40 percent "failed," according to a Standish study.

One of the major problems cited by Standish is that the government tends to negotiate single contracts for projects that private companies would break up into pieces. When it comes to smaller projects, the success rate is almost 55 percent.

The procurement process is cited as another major problem by experts, congressmen, technology executives and former government officials. Troubles with that process were on display almost immediately in the problematic rollout of the Obamacare website in October.

The current laws and rules in place are designed to prevent corruption, but they give government officials very little authority over which companies are hired, how projects are executed, and little power to end a failing contract.

According to the Times, companies with large legal teams familiar with the government contracting process also have the upper hand in winning contracts. Smaller firms, even though they are often on the cutting edge of technology innovation, simply don't have the personnel or the know-how to scale the procurement process.

The White House Budget office says the Administration is working to reform the technology procurement process, although more changes are still needed.

But Democratic Rep. Gerald Connolly of Virginia noted in the Times piece that the budget office offered no support for a bipartisan bill introduced this year that would have put a single person in each agency in charge of technology projects, and make such projects and the money spent on them more transparent.

Connolly told the Times the budget office "takes the position, as it usually does, that we don't need legislation to address these issues."


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