Saturday, October 19, 2013

Risk mitigation 101... or not


Being in the federal acquisition business, one of the things we worry about during the design of whatever U.S. Navy platform we happen to be working on is technological obsolescence. On its surface, it sounds pretty straight forward but in addition to that particular technology getting by-passed by newer technology there are the collateral concerns of whether, say, that particular technology will be supportable in way of upgrades, tech support, repair parts, regulatory restrictions, etc.

When choosing an oily water separator for your ship which has to purify, by law, engine room oily waste up to 15 ppm (parts per million), do you go with the model that does indeed do that or do you plunk down the additional money for the model that purifies waste oil to 5 ppm? That regulation is coming but you just don't know when. So, you balance the risk of buying the cheaper model that complies with current regulations and work towards getting grand-fathered vs. taking the plunge on the more expensive model knowing that the more restrictive regulation is inevitable and that the infrastructure support for the entire industry is moving in that direction anyway.

Team O, when putting together the online exchanges for the new healthcare law, bypassed all that heavy-lifting and appeared to say, "chuck it" when they employed technology for these exchanges that was already 10 years old.

From USA Today:

The federal health care exchange was built using 10-year-old technology that may require constant fixes and updates for the next six months and the eventual overhaul of the entire system, technology experts told USA TODAY.

The site could be perfect, but if the systems from which it draws data are not up to speed, it doesn't matter, said John Engates, chief technology officer at Rackspace, a cloud computer service provider.

"It is a core problem in the sense of it's fundamental to this thing actually working, but it's not necessarily a problem that the people who wrote can get to," Engates said. "Even if they had a perfect system, it still won't work."

Recent changes have made the exchanges easier to use, but they still require clearing the computer's cache several times, stopping a pop-up blocker, talking to people via Web chat who suggest waiting until the server is not busy, opening links in new windows and clicking on every available possibility on a page in the hopes of not receiving an error message. With those changes, it took one hour to navigate the enrollment process Wednesday.

We're not quite sure what Engates meant in that paragraph above but as, admittedly, not the most tech-savvy folks, we will take a shot anyway.

There appears to be a next generation of smart phone that comes out every 6 months or so, currently. With the exponential growth of this technology, how in god's name are you going to find the people and the fixes for technology that is... 10 freaking years old?

One of the most basic functions of federal acquisition ignored entirely. This should all be completely inconceivable but... here we are.

And in other entirely related news:

Radio show host Roger Hedgecock has put out a challenge to his listenership to call in if they have a) successfully enrolled in ObamaCare and b) wound up with lower monthly premiums because of it. It seemed like really slim pickings until one lady, who along with her husband are self-employed, called in a few days ago with her success story.

After several false starts, she successfully enrolled into a health insurance plan and is now paying in the neighborhood of $150/month when previously she was paying upwards of $1100/month. Wow. That's quite a reduction, no? The woman then revealed she was getting subsidized to the tune of $1250/month. Dude. So, what this really breaks down to is that without the subsidy, she would be paying $1400/month in premiums or $300 more than she was paying previous to signing up for ObamaCare.

But, hey, a deal's a deal, right? Her out of pocket expenses on a monthly basis did indeed plunge $950/month thanks to the U.S. taxpayer. When you hear all that "scaremongering" about ObamaCare being the biggest middle class tax hike in history, this is why and that example is precisely how this represents not healthcare reform but a massive income redistribution scheme.

* That would be Secretary of Health and Human Services, Kathleen Sebelius, owner of this entire mess.

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