All US Government IT Projects Under Review

Planned Crack Down on Projects That Do Not Work

2 min read
All US Government IT Projects Under Review

A few weeks ago, the US Government's Chief Information Officer Vivek Kundraannounced that he had created what he called "TechStat Accountability" meetings with Federal government CIOs to review their IT projects and programs, building upon the government's IT Dashboardinitiative of last year.

"A TechStat accountability session is a face-to-face, evidence-based review of an IT program with OMB and agency leadership, powered by the IT Dashboard and input from the American people.  TechStat sessions enable the government to turnaround, halt or terminate IT investments that do not produce dividends for the American people.  Investments are carefully analyzed with a focus on problem solving that leads to concrete action to improve performance."

CIO Kundra's idea is to conduct recurring program reviews to try and keep IT programs from going off the rails, or if they do, from lingering on and on like the Defense Integrated Military Human Resources System (DIMHRS), which the Department of Defense (DoD) finally killed last month after 12 years and $1 billion being spent.

Adm. Mike Mullen, chairman of the Joint Chiefs, recently called DIMHRS "a disaster"; the Secretary of Defense Robert Gates said all the country got for its money was "an unpronounceable acronym."

The idea behind DIMHRS was to consolidate the 90 different IT systems being used for payroll and personnel systems used across DoD into one. In 2002, DoD estimated that DIMHRS would be fully deployed by fiscal year 2007 at a development cost of about $427 million. As far back as 2003, the US Government Accountability Office (GAO) warned that there were major troubles ahead, noting that before the development of DIMHRS had begun, the original schedule had already slipped by about 15 months.

DoD needed to invoke the IT mercy rule on DIMHRS a long time ago.

It will be interesting to see whether TechStat, which is funded at about $20 million, includes reviews of all government operational IT systems as well as projects planned or under development. The reason I say that is that late last week, there was a story on ABC News about the US Secret Service computers being fully operational only 60% of the time. According to the story, the Secret Service is still using 1980s mainframes that are in the Department of Homeland Security's own words, "fragile and cannot sustain the tempo of current or future operational missions."

DHS has allocated some $102 million to fix the problem; however, it is estimated that $187 million is needed to complete the job.

The Secret Service says not to worry, though, because "its protective details have not been impacted" by problems with its computer systems, the ABC story notes.  The Secret Service also told ABC that it is responsible for a vast array of electronic crimes, such as banking and financial fraud issues and cyber-security issues.  It did not say which of those were impacted and by how much by its computer problems, however.

The US government's IT budget is currently $78.4 billion. This will keep CIO Kundra rather busy, I think.

The Conversation (0)

Why Functional Programming Should Be the Future of Software Development

It’s hard to learn, but your code will produce fewer nasty surprises

11 min read
A plate of spaghetti made from code
Shira Inbar

You’d expectthe longest and most costly phase in the lifecycle of a software product to be the initial development of the system, when all those great features are first imagined and then created. In fact, the hardest part comes later, during the maintenance phase. That’s when programmers pay the price for the shortcuts they took during development.

So why did they take shortcuts? Maybe they didn’t realize that they were cutting any corners. Only when their code was deployed and exercised by a lot of users did its hidden flaws come to light. And maybe the developers were rushed. Time-to-market pressures would almost guarantee that their software will contain more bugs than it would otherwise.

Keep Reading ↓Show less