Your tax dollars at work


Federal IT projects oft go awry. I'm editing an article on one right now, as a matter of fact.

There's a tech component to this fiasco, too: "18 years after Congress required major federal agencies to be audited, the Pentagon still can't be."

More: To enter the Indianapolis center is to pass through a time warp, to a place where the most critical software programs date from the dawn of the computer age. They run on old-style I.B.M. mainframes and rely on Cobol, the ancient Sumerian of computer languages. "This was a bunch of systems patched together," says Greg Bitz, a former director of the center. "I never went home at night without worrying about one of them crashing." Bitz predicts a crisis as older programmers retire. "Try to find somebody today who knows Cobol," he says.

Don't try this at your job: "For the first three quarters of 2007, $1.1 trillion in Army accounting entries hadn't been properly reviewed and substantiated, according to the Department of Defense's inspector general. In 2006, $258.2 billion of recorded withdrawals and payments from the Army's main account were unsupported. It's as if the Army had submitted multibillion-dollar expense reports without any receipts."

Somebody should write a project management book of cautionary tales based on government systems.


4 Comments for "Your tax dollars at work"

  • Rolletic August 27, 2013 1:54 am

    Hey hey hey, take a gadner at what' you've done

  • Mr. Moo April 17, 2008 7:47 am

    I still remember COBOL and PL/I as well. Yah mainframes! Sweet. I agree I would love getting back to old school programming!

  • Sing April 16, 2008 11:57 am

    The Indianapolis Center sounds a lot like the insurance company I know of. In fact, they are re-writing the core application in CICS. I do not know any young programmers that are interested in learning COBOL, but I do know a lot of older programmers that are looking forward to the inevitable jump in salary.

  • anonymous April 16, 2008 11:09 am

    How does one hook up with folks specializing in doing this for the feds? I love doing and/or managing this kind of work, migrating from mainframe COBOL and the like to client server and web 2.0, that is, but I can't find the market for it. I've been successful at it at least back in web 1.0 days. I have the old mainframe skills (though I would have to dust them off) plus the replacement skills (java, messaging, web services (SOA), agile development, some .NET, etc.). I made the transition from old school technology to the new school about 10 years ago and would love to find work doing the same for the feds as they seem to need the most help. I figure I have 10-12 years of work left in me before I retire and would love to finish my career retiring old school systems.

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