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Obama Spent $634 Million to Build Broken Healthcare.gov Website

Posted By Daniel Greenfield On October 9, 2013 @ 10:03 pm In The Point | 15 Comments

I could have built him a broken website for only $633 million. But I have trouble even taking in or believing that number is real.

The site itself, which apparently underwent major code renovations over the weekend, still rejects user logins, fails to load drop-down menus and other crucial components for users that successfully gain entrance, and otherwise prevents uninsured Americans in the 36 states it serves from purchasing healthcare at competitive rates – Healthcare.gov’s primary purpose.

The reason for this nationwide headache apparently stems from poorly written code, which buckled under the heavy influx of traffic that its engineers and administrators should have seen coming. But the fact that Healthcare.gov can’t do the one job it was built to do isn’t the most infuriating part of this debacle – it’s that we, the taxpayers, seem to have forked up more than $634 million of the federal purse to build the digital equivalent of a rock.

The exact cost to build Healthcare.gov, according to U.S. government records, appears to have been $634,320,919, which we paid to a company you probably never heard of: CGI Federal.  The company originally won the contract back in 2011, but at that time, the cost was expected to run “up to” $93.7 million – still a chunk of change, but nothing near where it ended up.

Google managed to build an index of 60 million pages while basically being run by two guys with  $100k in seed money. Sure they had Stanford’s computers, but this was supposed to be backed by the US government.

Data centers are expensive. That’s why you used to see Twitter’s Fail Whale so much. But Facebook spends $50 million a year on data centers. And it rarely goes down.

And the planning here was bite sized.

The healthcare exchange that launched last week was designed for 50,000 to 60,000 concurrent users, but got 250,000, US chief technology officer Todd Park told USA Today

Really? 50,000 users at a time? You spent 600 mil on that? Facebook handles 10 million concurrent users. Even MySpace managed 1 million concurrent users.

Maybe those are unfair comparisons, but Obama Inc. was planning a massive healthcare rollout that would only have 50,000 concurrent users?

But maybe it’s not so surprising.

A Canadian tech firm that has provided service to that country’s single-payer health care system is behind the glitch-ridden United States national health care exchange site healthcare.gov.

CGI Federal is a subsidiary of Montreal-based CGI Group. With offices in Fairfax, Va., the subsidiary has been a darling of the Obama administration, which since 2009 has bestowed it with $1.4 billion in federal contracts, according to USAspending.gov.

Earlier this year the U.S. Government Accountability Office criticized the pace of development and testing for Healthcare.gov.’s IT system and noted that it was missing important milestone deadlines.

HHS is by far the single largest federal contractor of CGI, showering it with $645 million in contracts. The Defense Department pays the Canadian company $254 million, the EPA $58 million and the Justice Department $36 million.

In comparison, in 2008, under President George W. Bush, CGI contracts totaled only $16.5 million for all federal departments and agencies.

That’s certainly a major shift. Why are we suddenly spending 1.4 billion on contracts to a Canadian IT company? It gets complicated.

CGI Federal was built on top of the ruins of a traditional government contractor, American Management Systems, a company co-founded by Bill Clinton’s former IRS commish, with a disastrous track record that eventually put it out of business.

How does all of this translate into a whole load of government money since 2009? I don’t know. Untangling the convoluted webs would take some time. But it is a rather interesting question.


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