Government Technology Moves Too Slow


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Let’s talk about an exciting government bidding topic! Wow?!

Seriously, the way government agencies buy technology is the Pentagon’s sudden cancellation A technology project billed as essential to modernizing the US military on Tuesday. When government technology goes wrong, one of the culprits is the budget bureaucracy, which is often at odds with the pace of technological progress.

The Department of Defense project, the Joint Enterprise Defense Infrastructure, known as “Star Wars” by the acronym JEDI, aimed to purchase commercially available cloud computing software to bring the US military into the new (-ish) wave of technology. Microsoft awarded $10 billion contract in 2019, but has since been kept by Amazon’s accusations that former President Donald J. Trump improperly interfered with the contracting process.

years mud by tech companies this was probably a disaster for JEDI, who felt they had been unfairly missed. This contract fight has been unusually messy, but it also highlighted a deeper problem that has made many government technologies squeaky and crappy: When a government agency buys something, the technology may no longer be at its prime or not meeting its needs.

The Department of Defense began drawing up plans for JEDI in 2017, and now it’s basically starting by asking companies to submit new contract proposals.

While reading the news, I came back to a conversation I had with Robin Carnahan last year. as director of the U.S. General Services Administration. “Stop thinking of digital infrastructure as you would finance a bridge,” said Carnahan, with whom he was collaborating at the time. US Digital Response, an organization that helps local governments modernize their technology.

What he meant was that local, state, and federal governments usually pay for highways or other big-ticket projects after long deliberation, and then try not to think too hard for the next few decades.

But this is an inherent flaw in government buying when it comes to technology. Long government budget cycles and mindsets are incompatible with the speed of technology and the need for continuous improvement and maintenance.

Carnahan gave me an example of government purchasing software for the unemployment insurance program. To qualify, a company proposing the new software must prepare a proposal for the state department of labor, and then legislators must approve the money. This process can take two or three years.

This means that by the time a company gives the green light to create a website to handle unemployment claims, the proposed technology is already a few years old. Take even more time to set up the website and run it to a state’s specifications. This is not a great result. If you bought a new smartphone and it came with 2016 features and functions, you wouldn’t be thrilled.

Byzantine bureaucracies and long lead times also keep technology out of government. Long development processes for cars are one reason. in-car entertainment and display systems are sometimes annoyingly cumbersome. By the time they reach your buyer, the technology may have been designed years ago.

The sad thing about government technology is that it’s not always that sad. The United States government, especially the military and intelligence agencies, had the best technology in the world. The military helped steer the direction of innovations such as computer chips, powerful databases, and the internet.

Governments still spend a fortune on technology, but the first and best customers for new products are often people rather than the public sector. One reason is that it doesn’t take us years to make decisions about new technology.

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During the last heat wave in British Columbia, mama bear and cubs dive into backyard pool.

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