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US Gov. Launches Web Site To Track IT Spending 58

andy1307 writes "Vivek Kundra, the federal chief information officer, announced on Tuesday a new Web site designed to track more than $70 billion in government IT spending, showing all contracts held by major firms within every agency. The (Flash-heavy) site, USAspending.gov, shows detailed information about whether IT contracts are being monitored and budgets being met. The data also show which contracts were won through a competitive process or in a no-bid method (the latter approach is criticized by good-government advocates for excluding firms from business opportunities). Each prime contractor is listed as well as the status of that project; sub-contractors are not yet shown."
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US Gov. Launches Web Site To Track IT Spending

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  • by Neuroticwhine ( 1024687 ) on Wednesday July 01, 2009 @08:11AM (#28540715)
    Wow this is great.... now what about a detailed log of other governmental spending? Be nice to know where those orders for $20,000 toilet seats are coming out of.
    • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

      by jellomizer ( 103300 )

      The 20k toilet seat. Wasn't because company A sold it to the government for 20k. It was from all the bureaucracy that went to approve it.

      • by rsborg ( 111459 )

        The 20k toilet seat. Wasn't because company A sold it to the government for 20k. It was from all the bureaucracy that went to approve it.

        By this kind of calculation, any person we hire at any company I've worked at in the past several years would have been paying $25k+ per employee they hired (with an average hiring lead-time that takes 3-6mo), which for some staff would amount to 1/2 to 1/4 of their yearly salary.

        Another similarity is the insane process in one of my former companies for acquiring external

      • The '20k toilet seat' was actually more like 'complete toilet enclosure for a submarine', but that doesn't stop this meme from circulating.

    • by ratnerstar ( 609443 ) on Wednesday July 01, 2009 @08:31AM (#28540857) Homepage

      The summary is misleading. As best I can figure out, the site tracks ALL government spending, not merely IT. It's a little confusing because they provide a special tool just for IT investments -- the "IT Dashboard" -- which gives you some additional reports. But information about all (non-classified) spending is included on the main site. If you're interested in the DoD, look here [usaspending.gov].

      • by Bigby ( 659157 )

        Each major department receives somewhere in the range of $50 billion. The site is quoting only the IT expenditures, which range from $0.3 billion to $3 billion.

        • Each major department receives somewhere in the range of $50 billion.

          I don't know what this means. It's certainly not literally true, since many departments receive considerably more or less.

          The site is quoting only the IT expenditures, which range from $0.3 billion to $3 billion.

          You must have an interesting definition of IT if it includes the following:

          Top 5 Products or Services Sold
          Aircraft, Fixed Wing $10,458,937,186
          General Health Care Services $5,494,273,332
          Aircraft, Rotary Wing $5,267,130,237
          Liquid Propellants and Fuels, Petroleum Base $5,051,723,867
          Trucks and Truck Tractors, Wheeled $4,120,425,697

          • by Bigby ( 659157 )

            I didn't see that second site. I was following the link provided from the original story.

    • You are dead on. What I'm hoping, is that like bad laws, they will use this to creep up the tracking on everything else as well. One can only hope though.

    • It is ironic that the GG is criticizing it for not having subcontractors yet. What about all the Contractors in other governmental budgets? Our budget should be fairly transparent, considering I know I pay taxes, am a legal resident/citizen, and live in one of the most tax-heavy states...

      This is a good step in the right direction, now we just need to see this trend spread to other areas.
    • Be nice to know where those orders for $20,000 toilet seats are coming out of.

      Space Shuttle? ISS? Just guessing here, but I'm quite sure everything built for space missions cost orders of magnitude more than their earthly counterparts.

    • Be nice to know where those orders for $20,000 toilet seats are coming out of.

      It'd be nice to know what those $20,000 toilet seats really are- they ain't toilet seats. It's basically fraud/money laundering; the $19980 goes somewhere else, or "toilet seat" is code for "1 ton bomb guidance system to be shipped to somewhere it shouldn't be" or "rocket motor for an ejection seat for a super top secret plane".

  • How much.. (Score:4, Interesting)

    by kazade84 ( 1078337 ) on Wednesday July 01, 2009 @08:25AM (#28540801)

    of that $70 billion was spent developing that site? :p

    • Re: How much.. (Score:4, Interesting)

      by Black Parrot ( 19622 ) on Wednesday July 01, 2009 @08:34AM (#28540875)

      And how much productivity blown off today, as people try to figure out how to use it, then search it for projects they can complain about.

      But here's the kicker:

      "I talked to the CIO Council and saw the data change overnight," Kundra said. "It was cleaned up immediately when people realized it was going to be made public."

      Wonder how much of the data changed in the "looks better now" direction.

    • Lowest bidder always gets these results.

  • I'm Not Going to Lie (Score:5, Interesting)

    by eldavojohn ( 898314 ) * <eldavojohn AT gmail DOT com> on Wednesday July 01, 2009 @08:28AM (#28540821) Journal
    This data really upsets me. From the top 100 recipients this year [usaspending.gov]:

    2 NEW YORK STATE DEPT OF HEALTH NY $18,335,672,042 Percent of total: 5.764%
    3 TEXAS HEALTH & HUMAN SERVICES COMMISSION TX $13,514,862,175 Percent of total: 4.248%
    4 PENNSYLVANIA DEPT OF PUBLIC WELFARE PA $11,168,181,944 Percent of total: 3.511%

    The other states fall in at around or less than 1%. I understand those states are high population but that should mean more tax income to the state. So you're telling me that someone who lives in Minnesota is paying Federal taxes to support New York Health Dept and Texas Human Services Dept? I really don't like that when states like Texas are all about "smaller government" and "lower taxes" or that people flock to NYC to be at the "center of the world" yet their taxes don't reflect that cost and other states pick it up. So what, you just shift your debt off to other states and freeload on Federal relief? From the data, around 2007 this started becoming a huge disparity between states. Why? You switched to Vista? Ridiculous.

    • by ratnerstar ( 609443 ) on Wednesday July 01, 2009 @08:48AM (#28540991) Homepage

      Why leave off California? Anyway, I think a more valid comparison would be total dollar spent (see here [usaspending.gov] -- the ranking is pretty much the same) rather than just the largest projects this year. Also, what you really should be doing is looking at net Federal expenditures per state, i.e. the difference between the Federal taxes paid and the Federal grants received. That would tell you whether Minnesota is actually subsidizing New York. The site in question doesn't cover that issue, but here's a pdf from The Tax Foundation [taxfoundation.org] that does. Look over the data yourself, but it looks to me like New York is subsidizing everyone else.

      • Thanks for the links.

        From your second chart, it looks to me like New York and Minnesota are net donors at roughly the same level, and the states that are the biggest spenders of federal cash are Mississippi, Arizona, Alaska, and Louisiana. (Mississippi and Louisiana make some sense due to Hurricane Katrina spending among other things.)

        • by Bigby ( 659157 )

          It doesn't make sense to spend on Mississippi and Louisiana because of Hurricane Katrina, because you are just subsidizing people living in a dangerous area. When you subsidize something, you get more of it...so we get more people living in dangerous areas then the "market" would allow.

          The #1 spender is New Mexico, probably because of the military base that takes up an area the size of Connecticut and there is also Los Alamos Laboratory. The Dakotas are up there for who-knows-why reason.

          The ones funding t

          • It doesn't make sense to spend on Mississippi and Louisiana because of Hurricane Katrina, because you are just subsidizing people living in a dangerous area.

            Many people live in a dangerous area. What's the alternative? Should people vacate Louisiana, Mississippi and Florida because of the hurricanes? California because of the earthquakes? The Northeast because of the snow and ice storms? The Midwest because of the tornadoes, floods and extreme winters?

          • The Dakotas are bigtime welfare states that is why. They have the largest airforce base and the largest concentration of nukes to take care of. The rest is farmland which also gets a lot of welfare. Take out the military spending and they'd have no economy outside the university towns.

        • Mississippi and Louisiana make some sense due to Hurricane Katrina spending among other things.

          Mississippi and Louisiana have had a high federal spending per dollar of tax paid for a very long time, long before Hurricane Katrina. Louisiana has had a notoriously high amount of corruption for a long time, although I read it's been getting better recently.

          But Mississippi and Louisiana has alot of politicians screaming for a smaller federal government, when they receive alot of federal aid. It's hypocritical.


    • by GSPride ( 763993 )

      Federal aid per $1.00 of tax collected (2005)

      New York State - $0.79
      Texas - $0.94
      Pennsylvania - $1.07
      Minnesota - $0.72

  • ..and I've been putting off filling in *my* Project Status Reports...
  • VUE-IT (Score:3, Informative)

    by highwind81 ( 862971 ) on Wednesday July 01, 2009 @08:37AM (#28540899) Homepage
    If you don't like flash here's another view of the Federal IT Budget:
    http://www.whitehouse.gov/omb/egov/vue-it/index.html [whitehouse.gov]
    I'm not sure if it's the same data but it let you have the raw data too.
  • by jellomizer ( 103300 ) on Wednesday July 01, 2009 @08:42AM (#28540937)

    It looks good on paper. However this is what happens.

    First lets stop and realize there is a deal of stress and frustration to have to deal with different people all the time (contractors) and it is generally easier and safer to deal with the same people (you know the level you can trust them and you know their quality of their work etc... All in all makes it easier to manage them).
    That said IT managers of government agencies really don't want to put stuff out to bid. As it is a lot of work for them, they have to battle with the Union first to make a case for their need (normally with all their staff saying I don't want to do this) for hiring outsiders to do the work. Then you need to make a full spec and then put it out to bid get the best bid and then when the people start they will start out slower because they don't know your work. (Turnover cost is about 150% more then using the same people)

    So what happens? Well they make 1 or 2 actual completive bids for some small projects and see if they like the people. Once they know them and like them and get to know their skill sets for the next larger project they word the bid to match that persons skill sets so the person who meets the requirements is the person they look for. That is why if you look at these bids that come out there is a lot of very odd requirement say for a Web project asking for 13 years of Cobol Experience or Linux experience for making a Windows app. Then they used that canned bid over and over again to keep them there.

    Why use contractors at all? Because the Union allows the people to say no to any job they don't want to do. And a lot of jobs are based on Bad Ideas which are very political, but really doomed to failure. So you get the contractor to do it. If it fails then it is the evil contractors fault. But you hire him again because you really know the project was doomed anyways. The contractor is fine to be the bad guy if you keep hiring him again.

  • by Anonymous Coward on Wednesday July 01, 2009 @08:42AM (#28540947)

    This is a good first step towards accountability.

    Personally, I'd like to vote on the overall budget expenditures for the big 20 departments. We shouldn't be surprised when departments and programs we love don't get much funding while others we dislike very much do. Most citizens don't have any valid idea how much money goes into any program. Most think we spend 50% on the military and 10% on NASA. Those numbers were significantly lower a few years ago (22%/0.5%). The thing that bothers me most is Social Security is like 55% of the total budget. That's just crazy. Wild swings in spending shouldn't be allowed even if we vote. No more than a 5% change in any department per year, so they can smoothly transition to the next annual budget amounts up or down.

    We need to carefully monitor http://it.usaspending.gov/?q=content/investments-rated-agency [usaspending.gov] until all of them are reporting. Only a few (less than 5) out of 30+ departments are currently reporting.

    Perhaps I'm crazy.

    • If by "like 55% of the total budget" you mean "21% of the total budget [cbpp.org]," then you're correct.

    • by cenc ( 1310167 )

      I say we just eliminate congress, the president, and the supreme court and just vote directly online through U-tube. Just think of the tax savings we could get by going to a full virtual government. We could all collectively push the big red button to nuke North Korea.

    • I hear people say how we should spend more on social services and cut the military and NASA without really knowing any of the numbers. They see 15B for Nasa and think that 15B is a really big number, yet has percentage of overall spending or even vs entitlement spending, it's a drop in the bucket. Hell, unless I read the numbers wrong (I've not had my morning coffee yet) the New York Health care system got almost as much money as NASA's entire budget.

      Last time I checked, which was a year or two ago, entit

  • Make a federal job board where independent contractors can easily submit quick bids where they will work directly under a government boss. The big IT contractors would hate that, but there is no reason why most IT projects need to have a huge contractor support apparatus, instead of having a highly paid government program manager directly control the contractors. 1099s are also a lot cheaper when the government can hire them directly. Even if they have to pay say... $150/hr for a senior developer, that's us

    • You really think that we can hire a bunch of independent 1099's to build the next F-35 or KC-X tanker?!?

      Consider my mind blown. To compete on either of those contract's you have to have a ton of internal corporate knowledge, and have a proven track record. I like your idea for pushing out small projects, but then to jump straight to that therefore meaning that Boeing et al would lose a bunch of contracts is just mind-boggling. Lots of government programs have Small Business set-asides in their contrac
    • instead of having a highly paid government program manager directly control the contractors.

      I see the newspaper quotes already:

      "Highly paid government program manager in bed with hookers and contractors!"

    • But where would the campaign funds come from then? A 1099 is not going to donate millions of dollars to political campaigns every year.

  • Good to know even the 'new bosses' are in the pocket of proprietary software monopolies.
  • Given that I work for the government, and have to deal with the IT spending regulations, I thought you all might like an actual example of how this works.

    Scenario: The keyboard I am using broke. I want a new keyboard. Our tech checks our budget and finds we have some IT money. (Any IT spending has to be earmarked as such, when requesting grant money to begin with; if we have no IT money we can't buy anything computer related, no matter how much actual cash we have left to spend total.)

    I pick the keyboard I

It is not for me to attempt to fathom the inscrutable workings of Providence. -- The Earl of Birkenhead