The ACA website, your tax dollars hard(ly) at work

moneyworkingThe Government has hired a new contractor to work on the ACA website. The Obama administration has elected not to renew its contract with the main contractor, CGI Federal. They have been replaced with Accenture PLC, anticipated to sign a contract for $90 million. An excerpt from an article in International Business Times:

Federal officials determined that CGI had not effectively fixed the computer system behind the HealthCare.gov website and decided to sign a 12-month contract worth $90 million, probably next week, with Accenture, which is based in Ireland but has operational headquarters in Chicago, according to the newspaper’s report. Accenture is the large consulting firm that built California’s new health insurance system, but it has not worked extensively for the federal government before. (ref)

Well, it’s nice that they’ve determined CGI had not effectively fixed the computer system. At least they’re making progress. Perhaps the contractors they’ve chosen has been the problem? A recent January 9 Huffington Post article titled “Obamacare: A Crisis of Crony Capitalism”  targets the Obama administration’s selection of contractors.

Michele Obama’s classmate at Princeton is a senior vice-president at CGI. The idea that this had nothing to do with using CGI stretches credulity, but the patronage parade isn’t over.

Designing the national healthcare site is Teal Media, founded by the Design Manager of Obama’s 2008 Presidential campaign, Jessica Teal. Teal has alternated between claiming credit for their work on the site, and removing all online references to their work regarding healthcare.gov.

Our investigation has uncovered that the HealthCare.gov user interface contract went to a small “garage startup” company, Development Seed. Their general manager is Dave Cole who is the former Obama administration executive in charge of Whitehouse.gov. Our sources say Development Seed needed the insider connections of Cole to land the plum healthcare website contract. (ref.)

This should probably come as no surprise to anyone. The problem with this, of course, is when it doesn’t work. Which it doesn’t.

In addition, there have been problems with the hosting service, as noted in an article by Forbes.

One of the most noteworthy Terremark hosting issues occurred On October 27, as visitors faced a major roadblock – an error window that read, “The system is down at the moment,” splashed across the Healthcare.gov homepage. This lead to a series of tweets and blog posts from Terremark representatives, who scrambled to fix the network connectivity issues. (ref)

Apparently the administration intends to change service providers. However, it seems there could potentially be a big problem with this as well.

The HHS signed a contract with HP to switch hosts for Healthcare.gov. Neither Verizon nor HP has released comments regarding this hosting move. However the timing of this switch is alarming, since the Terremark contract ends on March 30 – just one day before the 2014 open enrollment period ends. (ref)

Seriously, is anyone thinking this through at the most basic level?  Sounds like this could be setting up to be a real catastrophe. This is of course, accompanied by the news that the website is still not secure. In a January 16 article by Reuters about Senate hearings about the website, David Kennedy, head of computer security consulting firm TrustedSEC LLC, said, “HealthCare.gov is not secure today.” He went on to say:

“I don’t understand how we’re still discussing whether the website is insecure or not,” said Kennedy, who worked for the National Security Agency and the U.S. Marine Corps before entering the private sector. “It is insecure – 100 percent.” The article goes on to say:

Before the hearing, Kennedy told Reuters the government has yet to plug more than 20 vulnerabilities that he and other security experts reported to the government shortly after HealthCare.gov went live on October 1. Hackers could steal personal information, modify data, attack the personal computers of website users and damage the infrastructure of the site, Kennedy said in an interview. (ref).

I’m not sure how this could be a bigger mess, or how this is all going to play out, but I’m sure we’re going to waste a whole lot of our money on it before we’re done.

References

http://www.huffingtonpost.com/adam-andrzejewski/obamacare-a-crisis-of-cro_b_4445779.html

http://politicalticker.blogs.cnn.com/2014/01/10/breaking-obama-administration-severs-ties-with-key-obamacare-contractor/

http://www.ibtimes.com/white-house-replacing-cgi-federal-maker-glitch-ridden-obamacare-website-accenture-1535130

http://www.forbes.com/sites/drewhendricks/2014/01/14/why-healthcare-gov-was-desperate-to-switch-hosting-providers/

http://www.reuters.com/article/2014/01/16/us-usa-healthcare-security-idUSBREA0F07X20140116

2 comments on “The ACA website, your tax dollars hard(ly) at work

  1. JETSR says:

    Whatever happened to competitive bidding and the lowest bidder being selected? Seems that within the executive branch, friendship trumps federal purchasing policies and getting a quality product for our valuable tax dollars. Very frustrating!

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