Counting the Fail

Ah, sweet memories of the hopes and dreams of yesteryear (via Harris Corpse’s PR page):

MELBOURNE, Florida, March 30, 2006 — Harris Corporation (NYSE:HRS) today announced that it has been selected by the U.S. Census Bureau for the five-year, $600 million Field Data Collection Automation (FDCA) program. The FDCA program will fully integrate the multiple automated systems required to efficiently and securely obtain field census data for the 2010 Census.

And they might have gotten away with it, if it weren’t for those meddling kids at the G.A.O (skip the blockquote if you want a quick translation):

GAO has reported long-standing weaknesses in the Bureau’s management of information technology. To control costs and improve accuracy, the Bureau is relying as never before on contractor provided technology, including the use of handheld mobile computing devices. In October 2007, GAO concluded that without effective management of key risks, the Field Data Collection Automation (FDCA) program responsible for the devices faced an increased probability that the system would not be delivered on schedule and within budget or perform as expected. GAO recommended that the Bureau strengthen its system testing and risk management activities. Today the Bureau and its contractor are finalizing the FDCA program and have not yet agreed on requirements for FDCA, and system interface testing has been delayed. In the spring of 2007, the Bureau tested the device under census-like conditions for the first time as part of its address canvassing dress rehearsal. Field staff reported technical problems with the handheld devices. The magnitude of these problems is not clear and the Bureau still has not fully specified how it will measure the performance of the handheld devices, as GAO recommended. In addition, the Bureau has not performed recommended analysis or provided sufficient information to provide a level of confidence in its $11.5 billion life-cycle cost estimate of the decennial census. The Bureau has not itemized the estimated costs of each component operation, conducted sensitivity analysis on cost drivers, or provided an explanation of significant changes in the assumptions on which these costs are based. More recently, the Bureau has delayed the dress rehearsal and dropped several operations. Together, these weaknesses and actions raise serious questions about the Bureau’s preparations for conducting the 2010 Census.

Translation: The Census Bureau Totally. Sucks. Arse. And not a nice clean arse. Think of a homeless guy who reeks of piss, puke and poorly metabolized booze. That’s the arse that the Census Bureau sucks.

But the G.A.O. didn’t run down to the CB’s offices and scream “TOLD YOU SO SUCKAS!” when this news broke (via The Los Angeles Times home of inaccurate headlines):

Commerce Secretary Carlos M. Gutierrez and Census Bureau Director Steve H. Murdock told a House appropriations subcommittee Thursday that the government would not be able to use specially designed hand-held computers to collect information for the 2010 census from the millions of people who don’t return census forms.

I bet the fine folks at the G.A.O. just shook their heads at the world’s folly and got on with sharpening the next stake labeled “bAdmin.”

OK, maybe they muttered “Dumbass,” under their breath.

The program “has experienced significant schedule, performance and cost issues,” he said. It now has a price tag of about $600 million. “A lack of effective communication with one of our key contractors has significantly contributed to the challenges. As I have said before, the situation today is unacceptable, and we have been taking steps to address the issues.”

Got that? This bad boy was two plus years away from launch and it was already running at the cost of the entire contract. And what in the name of my left nut does “lack of effective communication” mean in a time where (if I wanted to get fired) I could call my boss right now and ask him how he’s doing? Harris is in the U.S. they are (allegedly) a technology company of some sort. Lack of effective communications can only mean they weren’t returning calls. But it never occurred to the fine folks at the CB to pull the plug on the funds. Dear me, no. So now it’s back to paper and pencil. More from NextGov.com:

Gutierrez said reverting to a paper-based census, in addition to other costs not associated with the handhelds, is expected to increase the cost of the 2010 census to between $2.2 billion and $3 billion through fiscal year 2013. That would bring the total cost of the 2010 census to between $13.7 billion and $14.5 billion. He said the bureau would need an increase of $160 million to $230 million for fiscal 2008 to cover costs associated with returning to paper, with an additional $600 million to $700 million for fiscal 2009. Gutierrez added that the majority of the cost increases would occur in 2010.

Jesus. Maybe I’m just a cheap bastard but I would have expected astounding results at the $100 million mark. And if you don’t think they’ll get paid all $600 million for delivering about 1/10th of the promised product:

The Census Bureau still plans to use the handhelds to conduct address canvassing, a process to validate and update the location of every household.

You haven’t been paying attention.

But don’t worry about the folks at Harris Corpse. They may have wasted a ton of money and nearly buggered up a very important government task, but thanks to bAdmin. they’ll get more money and a chance to endanger lives (via CNN):

Harris Corp. was awarded a $118.9 million Army contract to install and provide training services for high-frequency radio systems, the Defense Department said late Friday.

Here’s an early mock-up:

And here is a member of Harris’ BoD. I include his photo only because his last name is Growcock.

Yeah, I’d smile too.

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