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US Social Security Administration spent nearly US$300 million on IT project 'boondoggle,' lawmakers say

Chris Kanaracus | July 25, 2014
The U.S. Social Security Administration has spent nearly US$300 million on a software system for processing disability claims that still isn't finished and has delivered limited useful functionality, according to an independent report on the project.

McKinsey suggested a number of changes and fixes to the project, including the appointment of a "single accountable executive" and the adoption agile software development methodologies. The firm also suggested the SSA determine a "next best alternative" to the current system, including commercial off-the-shelf software.

Lockheed Martin was selected as the prime contractor on DCPS in 2011. At the time, the contract was valued at $200 million. A Lockheed Martin spokesman didn't immediately respond to a request for comment Thursday.

The House Oversight Committee's letter is "sensationalized" and tinged with political overtones that obscure a broader truth about wasteful government spending on IT, said analyst Michael Krigsman, CEO of consulting firm Asuret and an expert on why software projects struggle and sometimes fail altogether.

"I agree that it needs to be investigated," Krigsman said. "But it's a witch hunt, looking for an individual witch in a city of witches. Why this one? There are a lot of bigger fish to fry."

Krigsman pointed to the Air Force's now-defunct ERP project, which rang up some $1 billion in costs before being tossed on the scrap heap. A Senate panel announced last year that it would launch a probe into that project.

"I think it's wonderful the committee is taking a close, hard look at [DCPS]," he said. "But I wonder why. If you want to make an example of something, this may not be the best choice."

In any case, "the real question is, when will overseers adopt a systematic and consistent approach to reducing IT-related waste, rather than the ad hoc examinations that seem to be the case today," Krigsman added.

 

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