And You Thought “Sinkhole Of Bureaucracy” Was A Metaphor
A special guest post by Friend In The Ether Adobe Walls…
Think “Sinkhole of bureaucracy” is just a metaphor? Well it is, but not just a metaphor, it’s also a Washington Post.com headline for an article written by David A. Fahrenthold and a place in Boyars Pennsylvania. It’s actually an old limestone mine where 600 government workers are employed by the Office of Personnel Management to process retiree benefits by hand, shuffling paper which they keep in 28,000 file cabinets. But not to worry the work is done at the speed of 1977.
WHERE GOVERNMENT FALLS APART
First in a series examining the failures at the heart of troubled federal systems.
I’m not sure just where David A. Fahrenthold is heading with this series but I shall certainly keep my eye out for more articles. Breaking points is certainly an apt description of what government does and does to us. At some point I’m sure we’ll discover that the fault lies with white privilege or the Tea Party. Another example from the WaPo article:
In some cases, the breaking point is caused by a vague or overcomplicated law.
In New Jersey, for instance, one researcher found that the approval process for a bridge project dragged on for years, in part because officials were required to do a historic survey of all buildings within two miles and to seek comment from Indian tribes as far away as Oklahoma.
Wow, just what the hell. Well there’s no law or rule that says government must be slow and stupid so I suspect it’s tradition.
During the past 30 years, administrations have spent more than $100 million trying to automate the old-fashioned process in the mine and make it run at the speed of computers.
Once again what the hell. But that’s OK they didn’t blow all that on only one failed attempt.
A recent study by the Standish Group, a firm in Boston that researches failures, found that only 5 percent of large federal IT projects in the last decade fully succeeded.
Of the rest, 41 percent were failures, canceled before they were turned on….
At the time of the healthcare website rollout I seem to recall a couple different IT folks pointing out that most if not all big and successful IT projects start out small and grow from there. There’s a moral in that statement somewhere. For some context healthcare.gov is neither part of the 5% successes nor the 41% scrapped before startup.
In an interview inside the mine this month, another federal official called the operation “very successful.”
But that official balked when asked if it was modern. “What does ‘modern’ mean?” the official said….
A fair question I suppose if you work in a cave.
Read the whole article — having what one suspected but didn’t really know, revealed in some detail is always enlightening/appalling. But here’s the really scary part at least for me:
This is how the mine works:
Step 1 begins when a federal employee submits retirement paperwork to his or her own agency. That happens at least 100,000 times a year….
Wow that’s 1 million additional federal retirement benefit recipients every ten years. At what point will retired government workers outnumber current federal employees? If I remember correctly Detroit has more retired city workers than current employees.
Obviously something has got to give. Surely there is a solution. I don’t know maybe we could shermanize the Fourth Branch.