Four infamous IT meltdowns

The government’s track record with IT projects is not exactly stellar

When it comes to IT projects, nobody bungles things better than Uncle Sam. 

The FBI’s “Virtual Case File”
Price tag: $170 million 
The replacement for the Fed’s antiquated case management system fell victim to massive scope creep, caused in part by changes to the FBI’s mission after September 11 (having five CIOs in four years probably didn’t help). Last year the Feds scrapped the VCF project in favor of a new SOA-based plan called Sentinel. 

The FAA’s “Advanced Automation System”
Price tag: $2.6 billion
This early attempt to modernize the nation’s air traffic control system crashed before it ever took off. In 1994, the FAA wrote off an estimated $1.5 billion of the expenses and tried to salvage the rest. The AAS itself was merely part of a 25-year, $45 billion overhaul that has been fraught with every ill known to IT.

The IRS’s “Business Systems Modernization”
Price tag: $8 billion and counting
After abandoning a $3.4 billion modernization project in 1997, the IRS embarked on a 15-year, $8 billion plan that quickly grew even more troubled than its predecessor. After numerous personnel changes and some scathing GAO reports, the project might finally be getting on course, if not on budget. Then again, it’s not like they’re going to run out of money.

Department of Defense’s “Business Systems Modernization”
Price tag: $19 billion (fiscal year 2004)
From the people who brought you the $600 toilet seat comes the modernization project from hell. A May 2004 report by the GAO found the project to be “fundamentally flawed ... and vulnerable to fraud, waste, and abuse.” The DOD’s IT roster includes over 200 systems for managing inventory and 450 for personnel, but all come in the same color: green.

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