How Went Wrong

Staff Writer | Department of Better Technology (DOBT) | October 10, 2013

Here at DOBT we talk a lot about How To Fix Procurement, but you don’t hear a lot about why things go wrong. The Fiasco is instructive in that it highlights every piece of our procurement process that’s broken. How, with a half-trillion dollar a year spend, could something like this botch even happen? Here’s how:

A High-Friction, High-Overhead contracting process

The contract for wasn’t a fully competitive process. In fact, there was no competition for it at all. To get the work done, the Department of Health and Human Services used an existing contract it already had with CGI Federal to get the work done. The contract, as they say, was “greased.”

So why was it greased? Technically, “greasing” something means reducing its friction. Running a public procurement of this size, and visibility — it would probably take at least 18 months just to get through the procurement process and start the job. The awarded contract would almost assuredly get protested by those who didn’t win, and it would yield to a very public, very political, and probably very bad outcome.