As Seth points out this morning, the development of the ObamaCare website had no one in over-all charge. As the Wall Street Journal today explains, there was one group in Bethesda, Maryland, drawing up specifications for the insurance marketplace, computer experts—who answered to different bosses—at the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid in Baltimore building the software and hardware components, and political operatives in the White House often stalling important decisions until after the 2012 election.
Meanwhile, the president whose name is on the whole program was blissfully unaware that anything was amiss until he read press reports that a debacle was underway after it launched October 1. It’s a good thing the president reads the newspapers for otherwise he’d not have a clue about anything the United States government, of which he is the chief executive, was doing.
You don’t need an MBA (which, by the way, George W. Bush had earned at Harvard) to know that someone has to be in charge of the development of a large, complex project if disaster is to be avoided. Armies need generals, and “unity of command,” to win battles.
But it gets worse. The main company hired (with a no-bid contract) to design the software is Canadian. Does the country that contains Silicon Valley not have a firm that could handle this project?
According to Mark Steyn, the company, CGI, has a bit of a track record:
CGI is not a creative free spirit from Jersey City with an impressive mastery of Twitter, but a Canadian corporate behemoth. Indeed, CGI is so Canadian their name is French: Conseillers en Gestion et Informatique [Consultants in Management and Information processing]. Their most famous government project was for the Canadian Firearms Registry. The registry was estimated to cost in total $119 million, which would be offset by $117 million in fees. That’s a net cost of $2 million. Instead, by 2004 the CBC (Canada’s PBS) was reporting costs of some $2 billion — or a thousand times more expensive. . . .
But it proved impossible to “improve” CFIS (the Canadian Firearms Information System). So CGI was hired to create an entirely new CFIS II, which would operate alongside CFIS I until the old system could be scrapped. CFIS II was supposed to go operational on January 9, 2003, but the January date got postponed to June, and 2003 to 2004, and $81 million was thrown at it before a new Conservative government scrapped the fiasco in 2007. Last year, the government of Ontario canceled another CGI registry that never saw the light of day — just for one disease, diabetes, and costing a mere $46 million.
Why would even the most managerially incompetent administration in history hire a firm with that sort of track record to handle its signature project? Well, call me cynical, but the Daily Caller has noted that the senior vice president of the company was a classmate of Michelle Obama at Princeton, and spent “Christmas with the Obamas” at the White House seven months after she got her job at CGI.
The administration is taking a beating to be sure. The Economist is calling them incompetent and even Ted Rall, the loony-left cartoonist, is calling “Obama and his gang of golfing buddies,” “idiots.” But the problem is, at its heart, that President Obama cares only about politics, rewarding his buddies, and the perks of power. The rest of the presidency just bores him.