Wednesday, August 23, 2006

Agility in Gov't Contracting

In any large bureaucracy, one is often deprived of the requisite managerial power to carry out one's responsibilities, or even of the right to express and exercise one's better judgement. Yes, here's my gratuitous, parenthetical reference to the failed Trilogy project at the FBI. I'm happy not to work at SAIC, or any other big contractor. "Agile" has become a buzzword in gov't contracting, but I'm more than skeptical. There's too much money to be made in Northern Virginia by feeding gov't clients' hopes that the more that more requirements they state up front, the more they'll get. In case you don't have access to the Washington Post online, I'll quote:

Matthew Patton, a programmer who worked on the contract for SAIC, said the company seemed to make no attempts to control costs. It kept 200 programmers on staff doing "make work," he said, when a couple of dozen would have been enough. The company's attitude was that "it's other people's money, so they'll burn it every which way they want to," he said.

Patton, a specialist in IT security, became nervous at one point that the project did not have sufficient safeguards. But he said his bosses had little interest. "Would the product actually work? Would it help agents do their jobs? I don't think anyone on the SAIC side cared about that," said Patton, who was removed from the project after three months when he posted his concerns online.

To respond preemptively to any defenses of SAIC, let me say that if they knew that they couldn't deliver, they should have refused to take any more money, money that came, in the end, from taxpayers. This isn't a game, people; we're talking about national security here.

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