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New FCC Website Problems: Did They Foretell the Obamacare Website Fiasco?


On June 30, 2009, Chairman Genachowski told the FCC staff

We will use technology and new media to enhance the everyday worklives of FCC staff, green the agency, and improve overall operations of the FCC – running efficiently, communicating effectively, and opening the agency to participation from everyone affected by the FCC’s actions. And, stay tuned, we will have a new FCC website.

On April 5, 2011 the new site was unveiled. It was developed by MetroStar Systems, a Small Business Administration (SBA) 8(a) company that describes itself as “a leader in full-service information technology (IT) and strategies for new media and enterprise collaboration” and is powered by Drupal, an open source content management system. It also uses cloud technology.

Your blogger has generally defended the new website, however, it clearly has major problems. Despite its modern technology behind the screen and better visual design, it frankly doesn’t make much information any easier to find than the old primitive design. Indeed, it is widely reported that most users still go to the old design which is still operational!

So what does this have to do with Obamacare? Was MetroStar Systems really the best contractor for the job or did the same federal procurement rules the gave the Obamacare contract to CGI Federal limit what firms could effectively bid on the job? Federal contracting laws passed by Congress are nightmarish and for dealing with cutting edge fast moving topics like website design hard to use. Thus the usual contractors are those who have the patience to deal with the complexity of federal contracting, NOT those who can do the best job.

Maybe the problems of the FCC design should have been a tip that such projects under present federal contracting legislation and rules are very difficult to implement.

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