Colossal Failed Government Information Tech Projects And Why They Failed

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Government tech projects can help modernize countries and even improve lives. However, just like large corporate tech projects, government projects can fail miserably. Here are a few examples, from bad to worse, with estimated costs and causes:

FBI’s Virtual Case File System

COST: $170 million.

The FBI system was designed to modernize tech systems and enable easier access across diverse FBI information assets. The project was abandoned in 2005.

CAUSE: Repeated requirements changes, planning and management issues were cited.

The Obamacare/ Affordable Care Web Site: 2013

COST (to date): $600 million.

The flagship web site for the Affordable Care Act,, was supposed to give Americans a fast, easy way to enroll for health plans. Instead, major technical flaws hounded the effort, which during launch failed to meet enrollment expectations.

CAUSE: Investigations point to changing requirements, insufficient testing, and the monolithic nature of the project as reasons for the failure.

OTHER COSTS: The American Academy of Actuaries postulates that costs may rise as the plan is modified to account for Web site weaknesses.

New York City’s Citi Time Project

COST: $700 million.

Abandoned in 2011, the Citi Time project was supposed to automate payroll operations. Projected to cost $68 million, the projects costs skyrocketed to $700 million before being abandoned.  

CAUSE: Critics say the project had poor oversight by the Bloomberg administration and that contractors engaged in a massive, $40 million fraud to overbill the city.

The U.S. Air Force ERP Project

COST: $1 billion.

ERP – an acronym for Enterprise Resource Planning – was seen as a solution for the Air Force to get their diverse tech systems to play together nicely. Instead – after five years and $1 billion – the project was abandoned in late 2012.

CAUSE: Excessive complexity, vendor weaknesses and technical glitches were cited for the failure in an article in the Air Force Times. In addition, the project lacked of a single, accountable leader, according to a report from the Institute for Defense Analyses (download report here).

The U.K. Electronic Health Records Project: 2002-2011  

 COST: $16 billion (2013 estimate).

In 2011, U.K. government officials scrapped a massive 9-year, $16 billion project to create a unified electronic health records system for British citizens.  

CAUSE: The project – perhaps the biggest civilian tech project in the world – was variously criticized for being too large, too ambitious, too monolithic, and for having too many changing requirements.


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