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You Want it Done by When?
Written by Larry Roeder, Editor
2013-11-06

        Affordable health care is a wonderful concept – a plan to make health insurance affordable and available to everyone.

        But when then Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi uttered the words, “We need to pass ObamaCare so that the public can find out what’s in the bill,” in 2010, there was a collective shake of the head by many computer geeks around the country.

        How often have the data processing wizards been faced with orders from above commanding the specifics of a project’s mandatory completion date, without anyone knowing how we’ll get from here to there?  The good ones will tell you that it’s a poor way to start any project – especially one that affects an entire nation.

        On Oct.1, 2013 our government brought the public into the world of information technology project failure when the internet portals failed to provide the much heralded “user friendly” door to affordable health care. 

        For the last month, the fingers of blame pointed everywhere but at the government’s project leaders’ (read federal government) failure to plan properly.  Short term political needs won out over sound product design, scheduling, testing and implementation.  The deadlines were all about politics.

        In the information technology world of old we learned that it was better to do it right, than to do it over.  It is also less expensive.

        Just last week we learned that the Affordable Health Care website might need to be rebuilt from scratch to protect against cyber-thieves.  According to House Intelligence Committee Chairman Mike Rogers, the site, healthcare.gov, could be vulnerable to cyber-mischief because of a potentially leaky data-sharing arrangement between the seven federal agencies that manage different parts of the Affordable Health Care plan.

        The Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services, which screens applicants to determine which coverage and subsidies they qualify for, says in its ObamaCare fact sheet that their data hub “was specifically designed to minimize security risk, by developing a system that does not retain or store personally identifiable information.”

        Let’s be real.  At some point federal agencies have to store your application and that’s a lot of very personal information.  At the host of hearings over the past month, the presence of a solid cyber security plan was sketchy.  If the system designers failed in that area as well, we have a lot to worry about.

        Just yesterday, a CBS analysis found that crucial tests to ensure the security and privacy of customer information fell behind schedule.  They found that final security plans slipped three times from May 6 to July 16.  Security assessments to be finished June 7 slid to Aug. 16 and then Aug. 23.  The final, required top-to-bottom security tests never got done.

        The analysis also revealed that the House Oversight Committee released a presidential administration memo that shows, four days before the launch the government took an unusual step. It granted itself a waiver to launch the website with “a level of uncertainty … deemed as a high (security) risk.”

        Agency head Marilyn Tavenner accepted the risk and mitigation measures like frequent testing and a dedicated security team, but three other officials signed a statement saying that “does not reduce the risk” of launching Oct. 1.

        What’s that old saying?  Oh yes, failing to plan is planning to fail.   


 

 

 

 

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