Fighting The Next Obamacare Tech Fail

Dustin Volz and Sophie | Nextgov | January 16, 2014

A head has rolled, but the body remains broken.

In terminating CGI Federal's role in, President Obama finally "fired" one of the parties responsible for Obamacare's faulty website. That may appease the chorus of those calling on Obama to hold someone "accountable," but it does nothing to fix the underlying problem: the system for selecting contractors that picked CGI Federal in the first place.

"The worst thing we can do is declare victory and go home," said Stan Soloway, president and CEO of the Professional Services Council. "We may or may not have helped, but we've done nothing to fix the systemic issue."

IT experts say that preventing the next would require a top-to-bottom overhaul of the way the government picks and manages contractors, and that won't be easy. Such reform would require bipartisan, bicameral coordination from a Congress that frequently fails to pass even the most straightforward bills; and a significant shift in culture that brings government management of IT in line with rapidly developing technology.

So what would it take to connect the best firms with the biggest federal contracts? Advocates in the field identify three major reforms.