Niagara Gazette

Web Extra

March 25, 2014

Retirees' paperwork, stuck in a mine, points to government's balky IT problems

(Continued)

BOYERS, Pa. —

Danbeck quit. In early 2008, the system went live.

Then it broke and was eventually scrapped, after more than $106 million had been spent. In the mine, the files continued to move on paper.

Contained in all those failures, experts say, is a very brief history of the federal government's recent troubles with information technology.

A recent study by the Standish Group, a firm in Boston that researches failures, found that only 5 percent of large federal IT projects in the last decade fully succeeded.

Of the rest, 41 percent were failures, canceled before they were turned on. The reasons often echoed the problems in the mine: Federal officials either tried to buy a technology they didn't fully understand because they lacked the technical skill, or they didn't test what they were getting until it was too late.

At the low point, in the first years of Obama's presidency, the processing time dragged out to 156 days. In response, officials did not try to eliminate the glitch. Instead, they hired more people to wrestle with it and rearranged the old process so that the paperwork moved more quickly.

Jonathan May, a recent retiree from the Department of Justice, was pleasantly surprised that his case only took three months to process. He'd expected far worse.

"I was actually bracing for it. I had saved up all my annual leave . . . went out with about 440 hours [of stored-up leave], just in case I had to live off of that for a while," May, who lives on Long Island, said in a telephone interview. "I was just amazed at how smoothly everything went."

Inside the mine, officials said they were gradually increasing the number of records that are stored digitally. Eventually, they said, the entire operation would run on computers. They had faith in the government's ability to eliminate this breaking point.

Text Only | Photo Reprints
Web Extra
Featured Ads
House Ads
AP Video
Florida Panther Rebound Upsets Ranchers Small Plane Crash in San Diego Parking Lot Busy Franco's Not Afraid of Overexposure Fighting Blocks Access to Ukraine Crash Site Dangerous Bacteria Kills One in Florida Workers Dig for Survivors After India Landslide Texas Scientists Study Ebola Virus Smartphone Powered Paper Plane Debuts at Airshow Southern Accent Reduction Class Cancelled in TN Raw: Deadly Landslide Hits Indian Village Obama Chides House GOP for Pursuing Lawsuit New Bill Aims to Curb Sexual Assault on Campus Russia Counts Cost of New US, EU Sanctions 3Doodler Bring 3-D Printing to Your Hand Six PA Cops Indicted for Robbing Drug Dealers Britain Testing Driverless Cars on Roadways
Opinion
House Ads
Night & Day
Twitter News
Follow us on twitter
Hyperlocal Search
Premier Guide
Find a business

Walking Fingers
Maps, Menus, Store hours, Coupons, and more...
Premier Guide
Front page