Magazine article Insight on the News

Another One Bytes the Dust

Magazine article Insight on the News

Another One Bytes the Dust

Article excerpt

Cutting-edge computers such as IBM's Deep Blue can match wits with the greatest human chess champions, but they are apparently no match for the man-made complexities of the federal bureaucracy.

Medicare's computerized Transaction System is the latest data processing panacea to go bust, this one after a $43 million investment, and follows in the wake of similar debacles at the IRS, the National Weather Service, the Federal Aviation Administration and the Agency for International Development. Such snafus seem to validate the placement of federal information systems on the General Accounting Office's "High Risk List," which periodically spotlights areas of the government especially susceptible to waste, fraud and abuse. "Agencies have obligated over $145 billion during the past six years building, buying and maintaining computer systems and networks," says the GAO. "Yet this vast investment has yielded poor returns in reducing federal operating costs, improving performance, supporting sound financial management, achieving mission results and providing quality service to the American public."

When launched in 1994, Secretary of Health and Human Services Donna Shalala boasted that Medicare's new database would move the health-care bureaucracy "from the era of the quill pen to the era of the superelectronic highway. …

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