In the weeks immediately following the failure of the federal government’s Obamacare exchange website, policy wonks who were inclined to attach larger meaning to the fiasco than the simple incompetence of those in charge pointed to how difficult and time-consuming government procurement is.
That’s why, according to this rationale, the same folks who were so inventive and effective in building campaign websites and mounting digital donation and get-out-the-vote campaigns couldn’t do the same when it came to launching their president’s highest-priority governing initiative.
Well, if the government’s rules are so constricting that nothing can be done leanly or quickly, how is it that the president was able to hire a new Healthcare.gov czar, Jeffrey Zients, last Tuesday, and have him on the job that afternoon — whereupon within 48 hours he had in turn hired Quality Software Services, Inc. to be the general contractor overseeing all the fixes?
How could all of that have happened so fast? Did the president use some kind of special emergency authority? If so, why couldn’t he have used it to bolster the effort to build the website in June or July when, by what is now almost everyone’s account, it became obvious that hitting the October 1 start date with the current talent and resources in place was going to be a problem?
How did Quality Software’s contract get negotiated in what must have been 24 or 48 hours? Is it a new contract, or an urgent extension of its existing contract to build some of the website’s features? How much is the firm getting paid, and on what basis, using what funds? Or is the contract not negotiated yet? And what about all the other (as yet un-named) members of what the administration calls a “tech surge” team, who are reportedly taking leaves from private sector jobs to help fix the website? Do they have contracts? What about Zients?