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The PJ Tatler

by
Charlie Martin

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October 1, 2013 - 4:20 pm

A couple of the editors were interested in a bullet list of large-scale government software programs that have actually delivered on time.

I’m thinking.

IRS:

“Although it’s taken 12 years and $3.24 billion so far, a decades-long effort to upgrade the Internal Revenue Service’s business systems is delivering value to taxpayers, the agency’s inspector general says in a new report, but security problems may be holding the efforts back.

The modernization program began in 1999, and involves integrating “thousands” of different hardware and software components. Among its goals were issuing refunds five days faster, offering electronic filing for businesses, web-based services for taxpayers and accountants and improved customer service.”

FAA:

FBI:

  • Sentinel Audit II: Status of the Federal Bureau of Investigation’s Case Management System (Redacte)

(Wikipedia) “Virtual Case File (or VCF) was a software application developed by the United States Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) between 2000 and 2005. The project was officially abandoned in January 2005, while still in development stage and cost the federal government nearly $170 million. In 2006, the Washington Post wrote “In a 318-page report, completed in January 2005 and obtained by The Post under the Freedom of Information Act, [the Aerospace Corporation] said the SAIC software was incomplete, inadequate and so poorly designed that it would be essentially unusable under real-world conditions. Even in rudimentary tests, the system did not comply with basic requirements, the report said. It did not include network-management or archiving systems—a failing that would put crucial law enforcement and national security data at risk”[1]

This is hard.

Charlie Martin writes on science, health, culture and technology for PJ Media. Follow his 13 week diet and exercise experiment on Facebook and at PJ Lifestyle

Comments are closed.

All Comments   (14)
All Comments   (14)
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I came here expecting to see a blank page...

The LEOrg my spouse works for just upgraded to the new multimillion dollar building complete with new unstable digital radios and call taking software that is buggy.
46 weeks ago
46 weeks ago Link To Comment
Computer history trivia question of the day - what did FADAC stand for?
46 weeks ago
46 weeks ago Link To Comment
Oh, that's a good one, I had to Google it.
46 weeks ago
46 weeks ago Link To Comment
The best IT department I ever saw was in the early nineties at NIKE. The worst IT department I ever saw was the U.S. Army Computer Systems Command.
46 weeks ago
46 weeks ago Link To Comment
Yeah, I did some consulting for nike then when I was at IBM.
46 weeks ago
46 weeks ago Link To Comment
Actually the federal government (Federal Supply Service) did design, code, test and implement a pretty successful federal supply system software project in the late seventies. It ran on an IBM 360/50 and then on a Burroughs 6700.
46 weeks ago
46 weeks ago Link To Comment
At one time, the Social Security Administration wanted to upgrade and modernize their computer systems. According to an IT trade journal at the time, the SSA had a lot of legacy systems dating back to the 1960s and 1970s which stored and kept track of their data. Many of these systems were no longer manufactured and parts to keep them running were dwindling. Also, the data was stored in many different formats, and once the machines which hosted these formats broke down, the data might become irretrievable.

Never found out what happened to this project, but I suspect it fared no better than any of the other agency-wide IT projects on your list.
46 weeks ago
46 weeks ago Link To Comment
Actually, I know what happened, I think it's mentioned in one of those links. Complete failure after they spent over a billion dollars.
46 weeks ago
46 weeks ago Link To Comment
C'mon, you forgot the NSA programs for eavesdropping on your exes. Although those might have been provided by Google and Microsoft.
46 weeks ago
46 weeks ago Link To Comment
I spent more than 35 years in the software industry, over 25 of them as a technical software consultant. During that time I was involved in dozens of government projects to develop administrative systems. Of those projects, some small, and rather simple, others large scale and complex, not a single one was completed on time. Most were abandoned while still incomplete and in the testing stage. All of them cost far more than comparable projects in the private sector.

I found the major problem was that nearly every government IT manager was, to put it charitably, incompetent, and usually more interested in bureaucratic in-fighting than actually making anything work. If Obamacare survives, it will be years before it approaches any kind of administrative stability.
46 weeks ago
46 weeks ago Link To Comment
The project that drove me out of the defense business and into graduate school was one where the customer was by god going to specify it and manage it textbook, according to a standard that was a predecessor to DOD2167. After about 9 months, we were, as best as we could tell, more than a year late, and we were doing roughly 30 staff-hours of prep work for every 50 SLOCs of FORTRAN we expected to deliver.
46 weeks ago
46 weeks ago Link To Comment
The only defe3nse I can offer government software projects is that big commercial projects usually suck badly as well.
46 weeks ago
46 weeks ago Link To Comment
That's true, Charlie, Private sector IT projects have, or had, when I was active in the software industry, a pretty abysmal success rate.

But the private sector success rate was better by far, than the government success rate. That may only be because if IT managers don't get things done in private companies, they get fired. I have heard hundreds of horror stories about IT projects, but government, and especially Federal government horror stories predominate. I can think of a handful of commercial projects that failed completely, but I know of at least two dozen government projects that were never implemented successfully, after spending untold millions of tax dollars.
46 weeks ago
46 weeks ago Link To Comment
I worked on the FAA AAS system in the late '80's. I don't think it ever actually deployed. My recollection was that 18 months after contract award (IBM Federal Systems?) it was 19 months behind schedule.
46 weeks ago
46 weeks ago Link To Comment
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