Exposing The Government Process …

The problem is inherent in the government process, as this Washington Post article unwittingly exposes:

Timothy B. Lee: In your work as a computer science professor, you’ve taught a lot of smart programmers, many of whom went on to work at top technology companies. Why does government have trouble recruiting this type of worker?

Ed Felten: I think some of it has to do with the way government personnel works. Top programmers are in high demand, and they can get excellent salaries or the possibility of major upside from stock options. That’s true even in entry-level positions right out of college. It’s difficult for the government to compete with that on a civil service pay scale.

Another part of it has to do with the slowness and inflexibility of procurement processes, which people with a software development mindset find frustrating. It takes a long time to do things, and there’s a requirement of formal documentation and requirement statements and so on.

That makes it difficult to operate with the kind of agility that startup people are used to, this idea of putting out a simple product and then iterating rapidly, learning from your customers and scaling up gradually. That’s the usual model that startups follow. That’s difficult to do in government, and it’s not what happened with HealthCare.gov, which was meant to start operating immediately at full scale and with full features.

The dog is dead, before it even has a chance to hunt.

I worked for years in high tech government procurement. They got lucky the hardware and software was only 10 years old/


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