Great article, Robert, and thoughtful questions as to what led to this "state-of-affairs". It appears to me that the expertise, knowledge, and technology was there but overridden by the politics; which was who was involved, who made the decisions, what the website was tasked to do, etc.
To me, that also explains the "surge', which is an appearance of having things under control, with overkill - when it needs strategic focus and execution. It seems to me these are political mistakes (understandable with the high visibility, but political choices none-the-less). It represents the infamous "management by committee" affect - with the diastrous results that creates.
I agree with you Robert; who in their right mind hires 15 contractors for a single project without appointing someone to oversee the entire project unless he or she plans to do so himself/herself? It's a wonder they somehow managed to bring all those lines of code together into one functional website. In any case, even if it hadn't failed so horribly, they would probably have to retain all the 15 contractors for maintenance since it seems each was working independently.
One of the big questions that will need to be answered when historians write about this: How is it that the Obama administration in particular messed this up so badly. This is an administration that rode into the White House twice based on its mastery of the Internet, in the 2008 and 2012 campaigns.
Having Obama fail this badly on an Internet project woudl be like having a general fail as a wartime president.
I heartily agree with the goal of insuring every American. And, money towards that goal is an important investment. And, of course, we shouldn't lose sight of those facts in the rush tocast the program a failure because of a failed rollout.
However, that is one of the things that is most perplexing here. The administration new the program was under the microsope and that a bad website and launch would be used by opponents. Given that, why not do whatever it takes to get it right from the start?
With respect to the comment about building a Federal IT capacity so that they wouldn't need contractors, I am torn on this idea.
I know that the British government has done just that and it has worked very well.
That said, there is a lot ot be said for the capacity of the private sector and the efficiencies it can bring if well managed.
And, yes, at some point this iwll make a great management case study. Right up there with "new Coke" and the Microsoft Zune.
Hopefully they'd get it fixed. In California, our site is up and is reasonably vibrant. I had no problem signing up--so I am as perplexed as you are. The issue is not the website itself (which I am confident will be fixed)--but the issue is the alternative? In this era of 26-hr news, they have to fill the airwaves somehow. I have been trying to see what the alternative of the opposition is--and I have not been able to find any, yet. But I'll keep trying. :-)
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George W. Bush once said, ďWhen I was young and irresponsible, I was young and irresponsible.Ē And that worked pretty well for his generation. After all, youthful excesses didnít stop W from becoming president.
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