United States Air Force Spends $1 Billion On Software System Now Declared Utter Failure

210px-Seal_of_the_US_Air_Force.svgWe have been discussing how the U.S. military continues to waste billions with little accountability for failed programs or unneeded equipment. This includes tens of billions wasted in our ongoing wars. Much of this waste or lost resources has been covered up by intentional accounting tricks. No one appears to be disciplined, let alone fired, for billions of lost money and over-charges. And the beat goes on. The Senate Armed Services Committee has decided to actually investigate waste and is looking into a failed $1 billion software project for the U.S. Air Force that was implemented by Defense Secretary Leon Panetta. It was scrapped after it was disclosed that we would have to spend an additional $1.1 billion just to fix the unused system.

The Expeditionary Combat Support System was heralded as a “revolutionary” supply-chain management system that was sold to the people over at the Pentagon who did what they often do: poured money into an inoperative system with no one taking responsibility to actually stop program. Instead, they acted like Las Vegas gambler given an open marker by the house.

In the end, the Pentagon contractors and officials informed Congress that it would require $1.1 billion and eight years beyond the planned rollout date to fix the system. So we scrapped it. Another one billion evaporates and Pentagon officials just move on to the next program. No one is fired. No one is prosecuted.

By the way, this is just one of nine massive software systems ordered by the Pentagon, and six are running as late as 12 years beyond their planned rollout date. Twelve years. How many companies would tolerate such epic fails? The problem is that the military budget remains politically insulated from major cuts and Pentagon planners remains insulated from accountability for such failures.

It is also worth noting that, while it is remarkable to see the Senate moving on an issue of waste (though this is not wasteful manufacturing usually protected by members), the obscene waste in this program was reported in 2010 — three years ago.

Air Force Lieutenant General Charles Davis has publicly comforted the members, stating “I can understand the senators’ frustration. I can understand the fact that a billion-plus of taxpayer’s money went to essentially nothing.” Well, that makes me feel much better. We are cutting educational, scientific, and social programs for lack of a few million dollars but when a billion dollar is simply torched by the Air Force, General Davis understands our frustration.

The contractor responsible for this debacle is Computer Sciences of Falls Church, Virginia. The company received hundreds of millions of dollars and was has been cited for “poor schedule performance.” For most people, “poor schedule performance” results in missing meetings or a delay of weeks on a project. In the Pentagon, it results in years of delay and a billion dollars of waste.

Source: Bloomberg

29 thoughts on “United States Air Force Spends $1 Billion On Software System Now Declared Utter Failure

  1. I am a hard working American and I recently went into debt to pay my medical bills – and I have health insurance and no major illness!

    Meanwhile, these clowns throw a billion dollars in the toilet and Americans are still going without health care. Pathetic.

    When is the guvmint going to stop hiring Computer Sciences to do their software development? CS has prooved time and time again that they cannot meet deadlines nor can they write functional software.

  2. THE WORLD IS NOT ONLY SAD, BUT BECOMING MORE MORBID NOT ONLY EVERYDAY, BUT EVERY HOUR UNTIL CHRIST RETURNS. YES, MY FAMILY AND I ARE HAVING OUR HEARTACHES, HEADACHES, YOU NAME IT, AND STRUGGLING TO PAY OUR WAY. WE NOW KNOW, THAT MANKIND CAN NOT COME UP WITH ANSWERS, WITH THOSE SPECIMENS THAT HAVE NO VALUES. A CLOWN WOULD THINK TWICE, THESE SPECIMENS ARE JUST PLAIN EVIL, AND LET US CALL A SPADE A SPADE. THEY SAY THAT FALLEN ANGELS HAVE HAD SEXUAL ENCOUNTERS WITH DAUGHTERS OF MEN IN THE BIBLE, AFTER THE FLOOD OF NOAH, THE SAME THING CONTINUED, MOST OF THESE SO CALLED FOLKS COME FROM THIS GENE POOL. WE NOT ONLY HAVE PSYCHOPATHS RULING AND GOVERNING US, BUT I DO BELIEVE WE ARE DEALING WITH HYBRIDS, WHICH WANT TO DESTROY HUMANS AND ARE A PART OF SOME ALIEN LIFE. I DO BELIEVE THAT MOST OF THEM ARE HYBRIDS. THERE ARE MANY THAT HAVE APPROACHED THIS TOPIC, AND NOT JUST ONLY ME. AS WE BELIEVE IN THE BIBLE, WE SHOULD GIVE THIS CONSIDERATION.

  3. The Wi. DMV bought an entire computer system that had more bugs than a dead corpse on a hot summer day. Businesses unload their horseshit products on the government. They give their C teams assignments on govt. projects like Obamacare. Certainly this can’t be news to anyone. It’s not the Air Forces’ money, it’s OURS. They don’t give a rat’s ass about our money. Again, DUH!

  4. Got to have a good lobbyist for this..,..

    I have a question… Why are some of the combined bases under the budget if the Bureau of Prisons….. I’m talking Army, Navy, Marines and Airforce….. The coast guard is now under the Department of Homeland Security…. Shouldn’t that really be a DOD department….

  5. Shouldn’t the parties involved in ordering the boondoggle be held accountable and is this a case of fraud on the part of the corporation and/or its officers?

  6. This type of debacle happens in the software world occasionally. In fact it is usually the case where the release date (ship date) of the software slips often by 20% or more sometimes by years. I would say it almost always misses its projected date in the beginning but when it gets toward the end and it slips by 50% or more it is a big sign of trouble. Microsoft slipped some products by years and most major software manufacturers have had this happen.

    When the software is in that much trouble as this one is it is a sign of a major architectural flaw in the system. It is not just a bunch of small bugs here in there it means the software is broken and beyond repair. It is indicative the design of the software was incapable of meeting its intended function but this was not recognized at the beginning and is essentially a house of cards in the making. I suspect this happened here.

    One cause of the house of cards happening is poor design planning and a disconnect between marketing wonks and software engineers.

    I don’t know if it was the case with this company but the stereotypical scenario happens as follows:

    Marketing wonks promise the world to a potential client using whatever tricks they have or influence they have garnered with the client they convince the client everything will be done yesterday and under budget. the wonks wine and dine the client with lavish parties and promises. They manage to get their hooks in with the client using whatever means they can to persuade and influence the client to their company over the competition using tactics that would raise the eyebrows of many.

    If successfull, the wonks win the client but often times with some problems. Sometimes the client often does not understand the true realities of software development and does not push back with counterclaims, effectively giving the company free reign.

    Marketing wonks announce their victory with the client and decide with upper management what the plan will be and the system architecture requirements and pass it down to the developers.

    Software engineers now see the design goals have changed from the prototype they envisioned but program management instructs them to re-engineer the product to fit the new parameters or to now implement an architecture that wasn’t fully developed in its flowcharting.

    Now the race is one. The over-promise / under-deliver problems cascades down to the lower levels and echos back up again numerous times, creating tension and contention along the chain of operations in the company. Management rakes program management over the coals for not meeting goals, Program management pushes engineers to come through. Engineers want to make a good impression by saying the product is fine and all will be well (often trying to reassure their bosses all will be well so the boss doesn’t get in trouble with senior management)

    Convinced that all is good, marketing wonks convey to the client beds of roses and all reassurance. They (probably not knowing how bad it ight be) tell the client everything is ok but we need additional money to complete the latter part of the development cost. The client, taking the marketing wonk’s word with full trust, hands out a big check.

    At first senior management is pleased with the check and this has a calming effect on management lulling everyone into a false sense of good. Months go by and everyone is happy.

    As the deadline starts approaching and the level of complexity of the product grows, large scale bugs in the product begin to manifest indicating the architecture might be flawed (core structure of the software). The problems begin to grow and there becomes worry the date might slip.

    This goes back and forth for a while, if the problems are not arrested they begin to magnify. Eventually program management and engineers begin to panic and the project goes into a big feedback loop. Senior management begins to worry increasingly and marketing wonks start reporting back the client is becoming increasingly worried about the status of the product.

    Program management and the engineers begin cutting corners or features. Marketing wonks push back protesting that all the bells and whistles they promised the client will not be fully delivered. Senior management tends to side with marketing wonks to keep client happy and begins throwing money at the project hoping it will cure the problem.

    The development process becomes overtaxed and as a result of the infusion of money hires additional engineers or allocates resources at the end stage of the project. The new engineers have to learn the system and take months to get up to speed. This drains existing engineers who have to train the newbies for a while. The distraction allows mistakes to happen. Program management and engineers have to cut some features in order to make the core features work properly. But wonks push back again. Having to do both degrades the software quality and the time slippage happens even more. Large numbers of bugs start spawning when they should be decreasing as the product matures.

    At some point in the descent it becomes apparent to both engineering and program management there are architectural and structural flaws in the product but to fix them would destabilize the entire product. Engineers attempt to band-aid / patch the bugs while keeping the product together with bailing wire.

    Senior management sees the dire problem and reacts by what it tried before, throwing more money at the situation. They get the marketing wonks to get more money out of the client.

    Now the product is at a crossroads. Engineers know that bringing in more engineers will have no effect at this stage but they need more time, time that the client is not willing to give especially in light of the money it just handed out. More bandages are applied. Then more features are replugged into the product to please the client and the software begins to unravel.

    After the primary, secondary, and tertiary deadlines have passed it becomes obvious to engineers and program managers that a complete overhaul of the system is all that is going to save this product. Lack of proper planning was a big cause of this as well as having insufficient resources at the beginning. Whatever the cause the software is broken and only a large amount of time will be to fix it.

    By now the client is exceptionally upset and senior management is going ballistic with worry. A big storm happens in the company. After the stress of this becomes great, some engineers leave and others have apathy. Some engineers and program managers try very hard to make the situation work, but if the architectural / structural problem is too great it might not be recovered from. Morale breaks down. Senior Management has a meltdown. The product has effectively failed.

    Again, I don’t know what exactly happened with the subject company of this article but I would imagine some analogue of my example did apply.

  7. You guys should not tempt me like this. You really don’t want to get me started on a rant about the F-22 and F-35.

    The USAF brass wanted to get rid of the A-10 “Warthog” because it is ugly, slow, has straight wings and is about as sexy as a dump truck. Besides, all the A-10s were paid for a long time ago, so we need new stuff, right?

  8. More and more of the “government” becomes less accountable as it is privatized. contractors are choosing who will get the contract. They are “overseeing” the contractors. Thus there is layer upon layer of obfuscation and no accountability.

    We the people must fire the one group of people we have any chance of holding to account-elected officials. The deep state still fears this. The deep state is hiding behind these people. Unless your elected official is an actual good, not a lessor of evils (supposedly) then fire them by refusing to vote, or support with your money or voice. We don’t have time to take the money out of politics. We still have a nominal right to vote. That is not dependent on a candidates’ money. We should use that right.

    Also, do not believe we must cut benefits to the poor, sick and needy. If the money is available to blow on this crap, it is available for the good of our society.

  9. Warthog was the brainchild of a Col. John Boyd, a much underrated genius that also came up with the ooda loop. Had he been a 4 star general I can only imagine the efficiency… it the nations loss because some people were more concerned with their own fortunes instead of America. And they are still at it. Probably the only man with the courage to fire these incompetents would be a president Trump.

  10. Although this write-up characterizes the $1 billion loss as “waste,” I can assure that fraud is involved here. Many decades ago, people used to complain about how the government spent $8,000 for a toilet seat, when you or I could go to our local hardware store and get a top of the line product for a mere fraction of that amount. People tend to chalk this up as “waste,” or “mistakes,” or, simply an “I don’t care attitude.” But the reality is that where thjere’s big “waste,” there are ALWAYS KICKBACKS. Not just maybe. Not just sometimes. But ALWAYS.

    How do I know this? Let’s just say that this is one of my areas of expertise. In short, all that needs to be done is to follow-the-money. Who asked that this project be done? Who okayed and authorized it? What were their relationships with the owners of the software company that provided the software to the government staff? Those government staff members are your first suspects. You can be sure that those government employees have assets that far exceed any possible official sources of money that they received from their government work. Those excess assets represent the kickbacks.

    Will there be a real investigation? Not in our lifetime or the next generation’s. The software vendors also surely paid off the politicians as well as the government employees. Yes, an incompetent auditor may be assigned, or they may even outsource the job to another firm that will ALSO be paying kickbacks to get that job, so you can imagine what conclusions those external auditors are going to reach.

    This is the business of government. It’s all about fraud. Nonstop fraud. And it will continue until the public wakes up. But the public is too busy following football, Kim Kardashian, and other such urgencies to be concerned about government fraud.

  11. 1 billion dollars?
    BWAHAHAHAHAHA….HOHOHOHOHOHOHOH…HEHEHEHEHEHEHE…HAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHA!!

    Bah!..pocket change compared to the F-35 1.5 TRILLION$ boondoggle….

    http://www.theverge.com/2013/9/19/4748464/inside-the-f-35-fighter-jet-the-pentagons-1-5-trillion-boondoggle…..

    …or the 40 billion$ ship that never was boondoggle
    http://www.judicialwatch.org/blog/2013/08/navys-40-billion-war-ship-boondoggle/

    ya know rich.. this is living proof of why the moniker DCOTP(tm) is massive goddamned understatement.

    Add the wars, the Congress, DHS, FBI , NSA, NOC, DEA, ICE, ATF, IRS, and all the rest of the fucking alphabet boondoggles and I can honestly say..Barnum really did nail it. And so did Mark Twain. However..they got the clue from the USG.

    A fool and his money…

    Step right up. I have these three shells here…
    and this here bottle of Snakeoil for only $.25..

    youbetcha.. fools and Barnum

  12. Darren, are you sure you were not a software engineer in a previous incarnation?

    Your description of the dysfunction involved in such projects reminds me of an article in a Datamation magazine of the early ’80s on the problems of large projects. The cover picture that accompanied the article showed a city with lots of little people scurrying around and gazing upwards at a massive green gelatinous blob about to engulf the city.

    The point of the article was that software projects beyond a certain level of complexity are bound to fail and a large contribution to the failure is the constant addition of new features.

  13. This kind of waste will continue if we do not downsize government and take away their money. As long as the money is there, government will spend it and waste it without concern. Vote lower taxes all the time. Take away their money.

    What we really should do is just make a flat 10% simple tax on individual income without any laws about deductions. Anything above that can be solicited voluntarily through advertisement, the same way all charities work. The State collects all the tax and the federal government receives the tax from the States.

  14. David,
    You still don’t get it. It is not a matter of money. The money is needed, but not for these projects. If you read reports from highway engineers, wastewater management, and other necessary infrastructure experts, the money is needed. It is a matter of priorities. Budgets are already cut to the bone, but the military sucks up a huge percentage of it. We are not about to fight WW-III, but are arming as if we were. We don’t NEED airplanes like the F-35, or a dozen aircraft carriers that cost many millions per week to operate.

    That money being spent on hardware for the military could be better spent on our crumbling infrastructure, social programs, and health care for the needy.

    I repeat, it is a matter of priorities.

  15. Here is the updated 2013 version of the PowerPoint presentation “Shift Happens.” The original version was created in 2006 by teacher Karl Fisch for a faculty meeting at Arapahoe High School in Centennial, CO. In 2007 the slide show was made into a video for YouTube and went viral. Some history of the presentation at this link:
    http://shifthappens.wikispaces.com/

  16. OS wrote: “You still don’t get it.”

    Or maybe you don’t get it. I understand that you have at times earned your living from government collected taxes, so it may be difficult for you to understand what I am saying. Your sentiments have been compromised.

    OS wrote: “That money being spent on hardware for the military could be better spent on our crumbling infrastructure, social programs, and health care for the needy.”

    There is waste in these programs too. The root cause of the waste is spending money that has not been earned. When a person earns the money he is spending, he spends it more carefully. Most people who win the lottery become very wasteful spenders.

    We need government, but we don’t need a government that spends a third of everyone’s income. Ten percent is all they need to get done everything that needs to get done. That’s my opinion, and to be truthful, I think the most ideal for a truly evolved society is to have all taxes be voluntary. People give to support the needs rather than have the money taken from us by force. We might not be ready for that yet, but we need to move that direction, and that only happens by lowering taxes not raising taxes. The truth is that the more taxes are raised, the more government corruption and waste we will observe.

  17. What we really should do is just make a flat 10% simple tax on individual income without any laws about deductions. Anything above that can be solicited voluntarily through advertisement, the same way all charities work. The State collects all the tax and the federal government receives the tax from the States.

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