The New York Times goes inside
the Iran hostage crisis the Obamacare rollout disaster that appears to be destroying the Obama presidency. What we learn is that the wounds were entirely self-inflicted by this administration. Excerpts:
Interviews with current and former Obama administration officials and specialists involved in the project, as well as a review of hundreds of pages of government and contractor documents, offer new details into how tensions between the government and its contractors, questionable decisions and weak leadership within the Medicare agency turned the rollout of the president’s signature program into a major humiliation.
The online exchange was crippled, people involved with building it said in recent interviews, because of a huge gap between the administration’s grand hopes and the practicalities of building a website that could function on opening day.
Vital components were never secured, including sufficient access to a data center to prevent the website from crashing. A backup system that could go live if it did crash was not created, a weakness the administration has never disclosed. And the architecture of the system that interacts with the data center where information is stored is so poorly configured that it must be redesigned, a process that experts said typically takes months. An initial assessment identified more than 600 hardware and software defects — “the longest list anybody had ever seen,” one person involved with the project said.
When the realization of impending disaster finally hit government officials at the Aug. 27 meeting — just 34 days before the site went live — they threw out nearly 30 requirements, including the Spanish-language version of the site and a payment system for insurers to receive government subsidies for the policies they sold.
The acrimony between the Medicare agency and CGI had built steadily over the preceding months, the new interviews show. By late summer, teams of agency officials had parked themselves in CGI Federal’s headquarters in Herndon, Va., demanding on-the-spot reviews and demonstrations of new code that was never tested. Agency officials complained that CGI missed crucial deadlines and that it could not control other contractors, although the company said it had no power to do so.
CGI and other contractors complained of endlessly shifting requirements and a government decision-making process so cumbersome that it took weeks to resolve elementary questions, such as determining whether users should be required to provide Social Security numbers. Some CGI software engineers ultimately walked out, saying it was impossible to produce good work under such conditions.
“Cut corners, make date,” said one specialist, who like most of the people interviewed for this article would not allow his name to be used because the Obama administration has requested that all government officials and contractors involved keep their work confidential.
This is classic. Henry Chao is the administration official in charge of the whole thing:
Mr. Chao seemed to colleagues to be at his wit’s end. One evening last summer, he called Wallace Fung, who retired in 2008 as the Medicare agency’s chief technology officer. Mr. Fung said in an interview that he told Mr. Chao to greatly simplify the site’s functions. “Henry, this is not going to work. You cannot build this kind of system overnight,” Mr. Fung said he told him.
“I know,” Mr. Chao answered, according to Mr. Fung. “But I cannot talk them out of it.”
“Them” being the White House. The Technocrat-In-Chief was out on the hustings telling everyone that it was going to be as easy-peasy. Incompetence and hubris! Read the whole thing. It’s amazing.