The success of candidates with no political experience in the Republican presidential campaign baffles the political establishment. Most of America is not even surprised.
The reason people look to a total outsider for president can best be understood by looking at the recent disclosure by the Pentagon that the private company contracted to provide software for sensitive military communication systems employed Russians to code the program.
What could possibly go wrong?
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The Pentagon was tipped off about the Russians in 2010. After four years of investigation the primary contractor, Computer Sciences Corporation and its subcontractor, Nutcracker Government Services, denied the charges, but paid a $12.75 million fine to close the case. No one is going to jail. No one was fired.
Computer Sciences Corporation had $1.5 billion in government computer work in 2014.
Why are we surprised at the regular disclosures of government computer systems that have been hacked? How long do you think it would take you to start firing people to protect your business?
For those who work for the federal government it’s no big deal.
Some years ago I served on the Ways and Means Committee in the House. Ways and Means has responsibility for Social Security oversight and we were briefed on Social Security’s new building program.
Prior to the new construction, all of the Social Security information was housed in one building in Maryland. The software program language was 1950’s cobol. The joke was that whenever a glitch appeared they had to fly an 80-year-old German in to fix it.
The new project was a billion dollar facility in North Carolina designed for IBM-style servers. I asked why, in the age of cloud computing, we weren’t having IBM or Microsoft, or one of many other private firms, build new programs for the new technology?
I was informed that we were bound by union contracts and this information was so sensitive that we couldn’t trust it to private enterprise. Now that we see how careful the bureaucracy has handled our personal IRS information that argument falls of its own weight.
Starting 15 years ago the FBI contracted to build a computer program for tracking criminal cases. One year after it was delivered the Virtual Case File failed and the $170 million system was scrapped.
Prior to the 2010 census the Census Bureau concluded that computerizing the collection of data through handheld computer devices would more efficiently manage the information gathered.
Harris Corp. was awarded a $600 million contract to develop the handhelds and related software. It failed. The total cost overruns on computerizing the data collection process approached $2 billion.
A couple of years ago the Army wanted a computerized intelligence system that provided war- fighters with real-time battlefield analysis. Rep. Duncan Hunter (R-Cali.) argued that software used by the FBI and CIA for similar intelligence gathering was available from Palantir Technologies for a few million dollars.
The Army brass insisted on proprietary software to meet their design. $2.7 billion later the Army’s computer upgrade was a failure.
The Air Force contracted for a revolutionary supply-chain management system that was to cost one billion dollars. Two years ago Congress was asked for an additional $1.1 billion and an additional eight years for the project. It was scrapped.
Eighteen months ago a U-2 spy plane flew over Las Angeles. An air traffic controller estimated its altitude at 60,000 feet. The $2.4 billion air traffic control computer program began calculating all of the possibilities of collision between it and other planes in the air over LAX.
The program ran out of memory and LAX computers crashed delaying hundreds of flights. Lockheed Martin was contracted with to add memory to the system.
Of course, the ultimate example of computer contracting is the notorious Healthcare.gov failure. We paid $634 million for a website that doesn’t work and is not secure. IBM offered to build a website for the Affordable Care Act for free but was turned down.
Additionally we gave hundreds of millions of dollars to states to build their own websites. CNN sent a medical team out to test 20 state systems and found problems with 12 of them.
A private business owner would look at the history of failures and fire people. A government manager will get everyone around a table to discuss options and then ask for a bigger budget to pay the contractor to fix it.
Americans are tired of waiting until all options have been considered to make a decision. We will vote for the leader who will ACT! That decisiveness appears to be lacking in those with government experience.
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