Tuesday, November 12, 2013

U.S. government far behind the curve on technology capabilities

The U.S. government apparently has invested far too little in useable technology for a long time.  It appears clear that they have been honoring the rigorous time tested completely flawed system of appointing cabinet members and their leading managers based on patronage, media reputation, good looks, vacuous communication skills, and party loyalty.  This is true of both parties.  Now we have the health care website debacle, which as said here weeks ago will in no way be solved by the end of November.  Plus, we have the horrific situation of a 600,000 person backlog in applications from veterans for their coverage after returning from the Middle East wars with PTSD or chronic physical problems.  Recent government commentary suggests that they expect to have the backlog cleared up by 2015(that was meant to be a positive statement), but  that of course is just a guess since more will be coming in.  Can anyone with any experience, personal or with a family member, imagine having the immediacy of feeling mental illness and being told to wait two years before entering the system to get help, most importantly, and eventually some compensation.

The NYT had an article on Monday on the entrepreneur who promised the end of November healthcare website fix.  He has been part of the Obama west wing inside crowd since 2009.  At that time in 2009 when his appointment to streamline federal bureaucracy he is quoted as saying that the government has "largely missed out on the technology revolution".  How clever.  Yet in the last  four years improvements are not evident.  Now Jeffrey Zients, the bureaucrat quoted, is newly in charge of the health care website fix.  By all accounts he has no hands on technology experience.  He is a management consultant.  Anyone who has ever been in big corporate business with open eyes knows the type.  They are obsequious and fawning to senior executives, while endorsing or creating short term plans that will make them appear to be successful.  They are darn good talkers with little substance.  It is not known here if this applies to Mr. Zients, but his background is not encouraging.

The NYT said on Monday that based on most observers comments, there were other candidates that were more qualified but Mr. Zients was "the best of those Mr. Obama and an insular White House were comfortable with".  We certainly want the President to be comfortable.

In fact this just perpetuates the technology vacuum in the U.S. government, not including of course the NSA, FBI, and CIA.  They seem to be comfortable with their allotments, capabilities, ability to do as they please.  This is an Obama issue, a Bush issue, and a Clinton issue.  The U.S. government has broadly missed the boat on technology and we have no one willing to take on the challenge, having real technology experts on board who might speak forthrightly and criticize them.

We seem to intuit here that the U.S. government's senior management cadre's overall understanding of technology may be slightly better than mine.  That is a truly disturbing statement. 



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