Me vs. $540M Government S/W Project

There was a short piece on the news last night about a $540M travel reservation system developed to aid the Department of Defense manage their travel costs (in peacetime). Apparently, it doesn’t work (doesn’t deliver low fares) and even if it did work, it would take 20 years of projected savings to pay for itself. A congressman is trying to kill the project, and Northrup Grummin trotted out a project manager to say “This is a project that works and of which the American taxpayer can be proud,” while smiling incessantly.

Government software overruns are always scandalous. Back of the envelope: $540M / $250 / person/hour / 40 person-hours/work-week / 50 work-weeks per year = 1080 person-years of effort @ $250 an hour. The contract was granted 8 years ago, projected to go into service 4 years ago, and is “approaching full deployment.”

“DTS has processed more than 1.87 million vouchers since its inception, according to DOD.” That’s not far from the number of travel vouchers that have been processed by reservation systems that I’ve architected. At the risk of putting myself out of work, I’ve gotta’ tell you: travel reservation systems ain’t rocket science. It’s big databases, ugly data formats, and business rules. Business rules, of course, are expensive to get right and prone to change. Duh. But not person-millennia at $250 an hour. Nope. Uh uh. I know whereof I speak.

At what point does inefficiency shade into outright fraud?

Hey, isn’t there some kind of Federal “whistleblower / watchdog” reward? Like, if I investigated this and gave the government cause to withhold, say, $100M in payments, I would get a reward of, say, a couple million bucks?