Why Do Reporters Give a Free Pass To Federal Bureaucrats Who Screw-Up?

There’s an article on the front page of The Washington Post today that really pisses me off – for two reasons. First of all, the story, “DHS Bid to go digital falls flat,” will get any taxpayer irate. It tells the sad story of how, after a decade of trying, the US government has failed to replace “its antiquated approach to managing immigration with a system of digitized records, online applications and a full suite of nearly 100 electronic forms.” What was originally budgeted to be completed two years ago at a total cost of $500 million, now is still not done, will ultimately cost $3.1 billion, and may not be able to accommodate the future changes in immigration laws.

But, even worse – and amazing: there isn’t a single finger pointed at one or more people who may be responsible for this screw-up. During the same period when reporters are spending hours and devoting a massive amount of coverage on whether Dr. Ben Carson really did hit another kid when he was 14, it is amazing that they give a pass to whoever is responsible for this. In a story running almost 1900 words long, lawyers who use the system are quoted about how inefficient it is to try to use a system that has finally been able to port only one form to the online system. It cites officials from IBM acknowledging that although they were retained at the start of the program they are no longer involved. It reports that the DHS officials (which department includes the agency responsible for this project) were aware back in 2012 that “the project was riddled with hundreds of critical software and other defects.” The former president of the union that represents employees at the immigration agency is quoted in the article saying, “It’s a huge albatross around our necks.” But who was the boss of this effort? Who led the team? Whose head is going to roll?

The Post reports that “Government watchdogs have repeatedly blamed the mammoth problems on poor management by DHS, and in particular by the immigration agency.” OK. So who was responsible for the poor management? What has happened to them?

The Government Accountability Office has “blasted the immigration service for shoddy planning.” OK – isn’t there someone who should take responsibility for planning?

What’s with this reporting? Was there an inability to find the name of the person or people who oversaw this project? That’s hard to believe. Is there some unwritten standard at The Washington Post and other publications to avoid pointing a finger of blame at those responsible for wasting about $3 billion of taxpayer money and years of inefficiency due to an outdated immigration system?

The people who should take blame for this fiasco may be wonderful people. They may be wonderful parents or grandparents. They may be Boy Scout leaders or soccer coaches. They may be very religious people who live with the highest ethical standards. BUT they obviously do not know how to manage a complex, costly and vital computer system – and they should be identified for that incompetence and told to move on.

If this type of reporting isn’t remedied, when this system is finally rolled-out it is going to cost more than the $3.1 billion now budgeted … it’s going to take more time to complete … and it’s likely to still not work correctly when someone says “it’s done.” And those responsible for the next wave(s) of screw-ups will probably continue to work anonymously without assuming responsibility. Is that really how we want this government to run? Is that the standard for employees we want to condone?

Yeah – the article this morning really pissed me off and it should piss off anyone who reads the story. This cannot be allowed to continue, but it will be repeated time and again if those responsible for the foul-up can remain immune from the consequences of their incompetence.

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