Thursday, November 16, 2006

Your Tax Dollars at Work

I'm here at QAI's testing conference where I'll present a keynote address on Friday about Credibility.

Surfing today's top stories, I came across this jewel at

Pentagon money-saving travel site - doesn't

Half-billion dollar system hardly being used

Synopsis: "The Pentagon that gave taxpayers a $434 hammer and a $600 toilet seat cover now has a half-billion-dollar travel booking system that is bypassed by more than eight in 10 users.

Senate investigators found the Pentagon's Web-based product - despite its high price tag - fails to find the cheapest airfares, offers an incomplete list of flights and hotels and won't recognize travel categories used by the National Guard and Reserves."

My view is that this kind of thing is all too common. After all, wasn't the whole point of SEI's CMM and other work supposed to help prevent these kinds of things?

After seeing a lot of these types of projects up-close, I'm convinced that the contracting processes are beyond broken. The contract was awarded in 1998 to a company that is now part of Northrop Grumman Mission Systems. So, this has been in process for about 8 years.

Has anyone there heard of Orbitz, Travelocity, etc? I'm sure there are "reasons" why a simple solution like that would not be feasible (special government rates and all), but I bet they go back to contracting rules and regulations - the same framework that spends half a million dollars on a system that people won't use. In fact, I have asked for government rates at hotels before only to learn that the rate I got on the Internet was actually cheaper!

My friends that work for the government are also very frustrated by the way these types of projects are initiated and performed. So, my beef is not with them, it's with the system that rewards the "beltway bandits."

This is just one more example of what I often tell my students that "The best defect you can find is the system that shouldn't be built." The average cost per defect on that one is in the millions of dollars range!

Just something to remember next April 15th!

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