Not all Government websites down: is it the Federal Procurement System?

The US Federal Government is the world's largest B2B buyer and given that (a)  not all Federal websites are down and (b) the (Obamacare) website is having problems suggests that there is a supply chain and specifically a Federal procurement system problem at work.

As the unbelievable drama in Washington DC plays out and the stock market takes a 160 points drop, one wonders : is this really happening? For example, you cannot access the US census data for anything you might be working on. The mystery is that not all websites are down, a phenomenon that Julian Sanchez of the CATO Institute calls "weird" that is not entirely explained by the Washington Monument Syndrome, where the Government of the day just shuts down the visible monuments when faced with prospects of budget cuts.

Consider also that the (Obamacare) website is unable to cope with the traffic due to the architecture of the software design, done by a contractor. What does the contractor specialize in? Certainly not the web design skills that the folks at have, who will not let you leave the website without buying something with numerous persuasive and relevant offerings.Why did the Federal Government not ask folks at Amazon or one of the large software development firms like IBM to do the Obamacare website? The answer may lie in the Federal procurement system.

Indeed the bigger software folks like IBM might have bidded for the job, but certainly the contractor CGI Group Inc. was better at simply navigating the Federal procurement process. And the Federal Contracting process is so mind-numbing that any business interested in doing work for the Federal Government must first figure out the process that involves thousands of pages and systems that ensure that due process is followed in procurement. This due process keeps Government officials above reproach, and no one expects an Amazon or Facebook experience, anyway. Caught up in the procurement process the Government spends more money on a website, than brain injury research according to the video alongside.

Naturally once a contract is awarded, the Government buying Department and supplier are so exhausted that they don't think of making changes in the contract, and the contractor becomes like a permanent Government employee. The suppliers do not make much margin in Federal contracts , its just that once you are able to get in, its more or less stable and long term work that keeps getting renewed. Competion is sparse because new entrants find the processes and documents to be so onerous, and the margins so modest, that its just not worth the effort of bidding etc.

The website, and probably other supplies get really tested when there are sudden demands like the traffic on the Obamacare website. Other cases like the "weird situation" of some Government websites being up or down during the Government shutdown, could also be due to contractors maintaining the website.  There might be different contractual clauses at work and some apathy that does not allow easy access to existing web content like the Census data. 

Not allowing access to the existing Federal web content, is a bit like putting drapes on the Statue of Liberty and the Washington Monument because the Government is shutdown. Contact StratoServe.

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