Critics of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services’ botched deployment of HealthCare.gov can point to a series of management mistakes, but many observers point to a more systematic problem with government IT contracts.
The U.S. government IT procurement process is broken, critics say, giving agencies little flexibility to make changes in projects and little incentive to look beyond the lowest bids. In some cases, including Healthcare.gov, a long period of time elapses between the contract award and work starting.
The problem isn’t new, with dozens of failed government IT projects in the rear-view mirror and several IT groups calling for reforms going back years. But the problems with HealthCare.gov have prompted renewed calls for IT contracting reform.
”The current process of managing and acquiring federal IT is largely broken and the failure of [HealthCare.gov] is simply the newest reminder of that dysfunction,” Robert Atkinson, president of the Information Technology and Innovation Foundation, wrote in a November blog post.