by CIO Staff

Big Government

Jul 12, 20073 mins
IT Leadership

Just the phrase big government conjures nightmares for some and in some cases, like those related here, it treads as gracefully as Dr. Frankenstein’s monster.


To Catch a Thief: The VA

The Department of Veterans Affairs reported a laptop theft. Three weeks after it was stolen. From an employee’s home. With a hard drive gorged with personal data on 26.5 million veterans. The VA later claimed it recovered the stolen laptop with its data uncompromised. Three men were arrested, but was theirs the only criminal behavior? In the fallout of these events, several VA executives resigned, veterans’ groups and politicians went off the deep end, lawsuits cropped up, and stronger data-protection legislation is in the works. And still, probing questions remain. Like, how was the PC recovered, and was Chuck Norris in any way involved in the mission?

“If it were possible to approach the theft of veterans’ and service members’ records without emotions…this situation might be an interesting case study of lax policies, failed leadership and organizational arrogance.” — Rep. Bob Filner (D-Calif.)


Detective Story: The FBI

It may be here to protect us, but who’s protecting the FBI from itself? $170 million over budget on an automated fingerprint system. $103 million over budget on a crime data tracking system for local police and sheriffs. And $170 million blown completely on a never-delivered Virtual Case File system that was supposed to be a primary weapon against terror.

“This program has been a train wreck in slow motion, at a cost of $170 million to American taxpayers and an unknown cost to public safety.” — Sen. Patrick Leahy (D-Vt.)


The Office that Time Forgot: The Department of Interior

Imagine being thrown back in time at work, having to get your job done with only the technologies of the mid-20th century…(Cue the diabolical laughter: Bwa-ha-haah!) Funny, only no one was laughing. The U.S. Department of Interior flunked a security test given by a House panel, and was ordered to shut down its Internet/e-mail connection until security issues were certified as fixed. Users went unconnected for more than two months, and IT workers toiled around the clock. Not a happy place.

“Everyone else is just as bad. I think if you gave that same grading to corporate America, you’d see all the F’s also.” — Bruce Schneier, security guru


Tales from the Crypt: The IRS

Tales from the crypt…your tax records, that is, still in a system running on code from 1962. Four CIOs in seven years tried to undo the curse of the Internal Revenue Service, each one suffering the same fate…

“There was a tremendous fear about delivering bad news on the part of the vendor and the IRS. They were afraid they were going to lose their jobs, that Congress was going to stop the funding.” — John Reece, former IRS CIO


No Way Out: The U.K. Home Office

Trapped in their own country, British citizens were held captive by a government IT “modernization” that turned the passably efficient passport-issuing process into a hellish wade through molasses. In queues longer than football pitches. In the relentless English rain. Without tea.

“It’s tremendously difficult to get any useful information at all from these people. There’s a real control-freak mentality: Things do leak, but it’s a tremendously secretive culture.” — Marcus Pollett, writer and government watcher.


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