When the tech geeks raised concerns about their ability to deliver the website on time, they are reported to have been told “Failure is not an option.” Unfortunately, this is what happens when you say “failure is not an option”: You don’t develop backup plans, which means that your failure may turn into a disaster.
One more piece of follow-up on the above passage from Megan McArdle’s news of fresh Obamacare disaster — if the administration is going to use “Failure is not an option” riffs to describe Obamacare, and Obama himself is going to randomly blurt out “we need more moon shot!” to his writers, let’s compare its Website to the actual Apollo program, shall we?
CBS’s Sharyl Attkisson reported yesterday, “Memo warned of ‘limitless’ security risks for HealthCare.gov:”
It was [Henry Chao, HealthCare.gov's chief project manager at the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services] who recommended it was safe to launch the website Oct. 1. When shown the security risk memo, Chao said, “I just want to say that I haven’t seen this before.”
A Republican staff lawyer asked, “Do you find it surprising that you haven’t seen this before?”
Chao replied, “Yeah … I mean, wouldn’t you be surprised if you were me?” He later added: “It is disturbing. I mean, I don’t deny that this is … a fairly nonstandard way” to proceed.
Late Monday, Health and Human Services told CBS News the privacy and security of consumers’ personal information are at op priority, and consumers can trust their information is protected by stringent security standards. The author of the security memo, Tony Trenkle, retired from CMS last week; no reason was given.
As Moe Lane writes in response:
If this is true – and I can’t imagine how it’s not – then we are in a Madness Place. I don’t want to start throwing the word conspiracy around; but only because people get justifiably antsy when you start making that charge. But this looks very much like somebody deciding to compartmentalize the people handling the rollout into those who would be spared, and those who would be deemed as being acceptable sacrifices to Moloch. Guess which category Henry Chao ended up in?
Yeah, it was a surprise to him, too.
Contrast the above, along with the video making the rounds by James O’Keefe, which features ObamaCare exchange “navigators” lying and instructing the customer on the phone to lie, with this passage from Catherine Bly Cox and Charles Murray’s magisterial 1989 book, Apollo. That book focused not on the astronauts, but on the engineers, technicians, and the staffers who manned Mission Control and made Kennedy’s vision of landing a man on the moon before the 1960s were out a reality, not the least of which was NASA flight director Chris Kraft:
Give a lot, expect a lot: That was the credo Kraft left for the other flight directors. “Chris Kraft was the kind of guy who would leave you alone, and let you do your job,” FIDO Jerry Bostick said. “But without him ever saying anything, you knew you’d better not screw up. You’d better get it right. Don’t try to fake it. Because he didn’t give people a second chance.” The key was not so much being perfect—the nature of the controller’s job meant that sometimes he was going to make a mistake. The key was being smart enough to recognize the mistake, correct it, and then never repeat it. (“To err is human, but to do so more than once is contrary to Flight Operations Directorate policy,” was another of Kraft’s sayings.) And above all else, when you found out you had made a mistake you had to admit it immediately. “The flight director’s looking at a lot of data, and sometimes the information [to be inferred from the data] is not clear,” an EECOM once explained. “Your data are one thing, information is another. So if you were trying to tell Kraft something that he might use to make a critical decision, like reenter the spacecraft, you had to give him very tailored, specific information. One day I saw a guy actually give him some bad data. He just tried to bullshit his way around a problem. And Kraft knew. Kraft went down and put his hand on the back of this guy’s neck and told him to leave the Control Center. That was it, for that guy.”
You can argue with both “Progressive” (read: century-old) Moral Equivalent of War reasons behind the enormously expensive Apollo program of the 1960s, and certainly JFK himself was a plethora of character flaws. But the men who made the program work, as least as portrayed by Cox and Murray, demonstrate uniformly remarkable character, particularly when compared with our current administration. But then, a presidential administration is only as good as the people who elect it:
Update: Obama’s NASA can’t actually send anyone into space (they’ve got more important things to do these days, such as making Muslims and LGBT proponents simultaneously feel better, a combined task that makes the moon landing seem like child’s play). So in order to keep White House Chief Technology Officer Todd Park from testifying to Congress, the Obama administration is reduced to launching him on a mission to explore the ultimate final frontier instead — Detroit.
Oh, and while failure may not be an option, functioning at a “subeffective level” certainly is pretty cool from the administration’s perspective:
Maybe my new fav’ euphemism. Carney: “The website has functioned at a subeffective level since October 1st.” #subeffectivelevel
— Olivier Knox (@OKnox) November 12, 2013
I’m tempted to joke that while Obama “needs more moon shot,” he’s wound up with Skylab instead, but that would be insult to America’s first space station, which while heavily damaged during launch, was repairable enough to actually work reasonably well for a time, before it performed the ultimate 404 error.