October 25, 2013
The debate over HealthCare.gov’s rocky performance during its first few weeks has brought the oft-maligned but little understood world of federal contracting into the public conversation again. And, once again, it’s easy to get lost in the sea of primes, subs, integrators and IDIQs.
In a hearing before the House Energy and Commerce Committee on Thursday, several members complained that there were dozens of cooks in the kitchen but it seemed like not one of them could be held responsible for the site’s ultimate failure.
Clay Johnson, an author, HealthCare.gov critic and former Presidential Innovation Fellow, has helped to remove some of the fog by annotating the testimony of CGI Federal Senior Vice President Cheryl Campbell to that committee on the site Rap Genius.
Rap Genius is a site where hip hop fans annotate rhymes with biographical and historical information to flesh out their meaning. The site has spawned several sub-sites including Poetry Genius and News Genius where the Campbell testimony is posted.
Some of the annotations drip with anger about the online health marketplace’s failure and CGI’s insistence that it’s not to blame. CGI was the main contractor for the site’s backend functions.
Others annotations are more analytical and explanatory. An annotation about the fact CGI passed eight technical reviews before launch notes that could mean the reviews were flawed rather than that CGI’s code was sound.
Other notes sort through some of the complex contracting language explaining how “full and open competition” tends to exclude companies that don’t have the time and expertise to sell to the federal government and that the costs of this competition is ultimately borne by taxpayers in the final value of the contract.
The government is considering entering into a terms of service agreement with Rap Genius to rely on the wisdom of the crowds to annotate some open policy documents. The U.S. Geological Survey already has an account on the site.
You can join Clay Johnson and the rest of us here on the Nextgov staff at Nextgov Prime in Washington on Nov. 20-21 to talk about all things government technology (geeks and hip hop fans welcome). Registration is free for federal employees.
October 25, 2013