Setting aside the issue of whether it’s a good idea for the FBI to be able to track our every move, the project management blunders at the agency are fodder for the usual failure stories.
Since agencies like the FBI are essentially markets of one, it’s hard to use packaged software. So instead, government agencies send bids out to a handful of big consulting companies that specialize in the government sector. The consultancies don’t have much economic incentive to finish the job because they’re usually working by the hour–they will rarely agree to a fixed-fee contract on custom software, often justifiably, because it can be hard to predict how long it will take. People in the agencies are no different than your average businessperson. They’re busy, and they won’t change unless there is something in it for them or unless the boss the demands it. Most agency heads are focused on other things, if a recent GAO report bemoaning the government’s lack of progress on enterprise architecture (which has been mandated by law) is an indication.
But these are just symptoms of the real disease: a total lack of leadership above the federal agency level.
If the agency leaders aren’t paying enough attention to IT, then who is? No one. People have been arguing for years about this. There needs to be a technology czar in the President’s cabinet and the different agency heads need to be directly accountable to the czar for technology fiascos that occur in their agencies. Today, there is no “business” accountability, only IT and consultant accountability. My colleague, Ben Worthen has been looking into the issue of lack of leadership at the top and will be reporting on it in an upcoming issue of CIO.