White House Muzzling All Who Worked on Healthcare.gov
by KEITH KOFFLER on NOVEMBER 23, 2013, 11:03 AM
The Obama administration “has requested that all government officials and contractors involved (in the development of the website) keep their work confidential,” according to the New York Times, in what appears to be at least in part – and perhaps in whole – an effort to minimize the release of information about the development of the catastrophe known as Healthcare.gov.
A New York Times piece running today mentions the information blackout in explaining why sources for the story, which details the incompetent development of the website, would not allow their names to be used.
The story puts on gory display a administration that failed spectacularly both in the planning and implementation of the website project.
The government had huge ambitions which could not possibly be realized in the time alotted:
The prime contractor, CGI Federal, had long before concluded that the administration was blindly enamored of an unrealistic goal: creating a cutting-edge website that would use the latest technologies to dazzle consumers with its many features. Knowing how long it would take to complete and test the software, the company’s officials and other vendors believed that it was impossible to open a fully functioning exchange on Oct. 1.
Government officials, on the other hand, insisted that Oct. 1 was not negotiable. And they were fed up with what they saw as CGI’s pattern of excuses for missed deadlines . . .
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.
President Obama failed to delegate authority to anyone who could exercise full control over the operation. And far from being unaware of what was going on, White House aides were constantly sticking their noses in:
Over the past three years five different lower-level managers held posts overseeing the development of HealthCare.gov, none of whom had the kind of authority to reach across the administration to ensure the project stayed on schedule.
As a result, the president’s signature initiative was effectively left under the day-to-day management of Henry Chao, a 19-year veteran of the Medicare agency with little clout and no formal background in software engineering.
Mr. Chao had to consult with senior department officials and the White House, and was unable to make many decisions on his own. “Nothing was decided without a conversation there,” said one agency official involved in the project, referring to the constant White House demands for oversight.
Instead of making a plan and sticking to it, the White House made it up as it went along:
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.
A pattern of ever-shifting requirements persisted throughout the project, including the administration’s decision late last year to try to redesign the site’s appearance and content to make it more informative to consumers, according to many specialists involved.
Incredibly, despite all signs to the contrary, Obama was expressing optimism until the last moment:
“This is real simple,” Mr. Obama said, during a speech in Maryland on Sept. 26. “It’s a website where you can compare and purchase affordable health insurance plans side by side the same way you shop for a plane ticket on Kayak, same way you shop for a TV on Amazon. You just go on, and you start looking, and here are all the options.”
A waste of taxpayer money, an exercise in incompetence, and a failure that has harmed many Americans. And the White House wants you to know as little about it as possible.