Year in review: top 5 federal stories of 2013
This year saw one of the biggest U.S. government scandals in recent years and also one of the largest IT flops; however, 2013 wasn’t all bad news. FedScoop compiled a list of the top five stories everyone in the federal IT community was chatting about at the water cooler this year.
The botched rollout of healthcare.gov has been deemed by many as one of the biggest IT failures in government to date. On Oct. 1, the website experienced long wait times, failed registrations and general unusability. The site debacle led to several congressional hearings involving staff from the Department of Health and Human Services, the Centers for Medicaid and Medicare Services and the administration and the contractors who built the site. The White House even launched a so-called tech surge, bringing in technology experts from the public and private sector to fix the site.
Now, after several weeks of work on the site, White House officials say user capacity has improved. The site now handles 50,000 simultaneous users and more than 800,000 total visits per day. However, back-end repairs are still underway. In addition, nearly 30 to 40 percent of remedial work remains to be done.
2. 16-day government shutdown
For the first time in 17 years, the government was forced to shut down after Congress failed to pass a budget deal. The shutdown cost $4.5 billion in lost productivity and worker benefit compensation when 800,000 workers were furloughed for 2.5 weeks. The shutdown also caused major delays in the contracting world. Thousands of contractors were furloughed, and major projects such the OASIS contract were postponed several weeks.
Congress came to an agreement Oct. 16 and averted a government default in a 285-to-144 vote. Congress’ ratings dipped to a historic low at 5 percent approval ratings during the shutdown.
3. First open data executive order
In a landmark of the open data movement, President Barack Obama in May signed the first-ever open data executive order. The order called on agencies to make federal data open and machine-readable, establishing a new standard for government operations. This order was good news for open data champions in government, the private sector and on the Hill. The first milestone of the executive order was Nov. 30, and according to the administration, agencies are making progress.
The Digital Accountability and Transparency Act, known as the DATA Act, would require all federal spending data to be compiled and published on a single website. The DATA Act passed overwhelmingly in the House in mid-November and awaits action in the Senate.
4. National Security Agency
One of the biggest U.S. scandals of the year was splashed on the front pages all over the world when details of the U.S. massive global surveillance program were brought to light by former NSA contractor Edward Snowden. The revelation led to countless probes and congressional hearings and caused international headache for the Obama administration. Investigations by news media worldwide have uncovered numerous other U.S. snooping programs. Snowden is still living in Russia, where he has been granted immunity.
5. Federal IT reform gets buzz on the Hill
2013 saw plenty of movement on Capitol Hill aimed at improving the current state of federal IT processes, relating to acquisition, authority of leadership and data standards. The Federal Information Technology Acquisition Reform Act, the DATA Act, the Stop Unworthy Spending Act and most recently, the Federal Information Technology Savings, Accountability and Transparency Act, are some of the more notable pieces of legislation to pass through hands on the Hill this year.
These initiatives have received bipartisan support in Congress, but no measure has yet to be signed into law.