There's No 'iPod Presidency' in Old-Guard DC

Old organizations like HHS don't tend to be 'nimble': Megan McArdle

By Matt Cantor,  Newser Staff

Posted Nov 4, 2013 5:00 AM CST

(Newser) – We should have known the health care website wouldn't be sleek and speedy—even if we were hoping for a tech-savvy "iPod presidency." After all, the website is the product of a Health and Human Services department that's been around for a while, and a longstanding system is usually an entrenched one, writes Megan McArdle at Bloomberg. Sure, as Ezra Klein has observed, the 3-year-old Consumer Financial Protection Bureau was able to create the much-lauded consumerfinance.gov. But while that may be a model for government tech, we can't expect the same from the aged HHS.

"Every organization calcifies over time," McArdle writes. This applies to the corporate world as well as the government: Look at companies like IBM and Xerox, "which were once radical disruptors" but "now seem like slow-moving supertankers: hard to capsize but not exactly nimble." As Klein has noted, "the IT department is thick with 20-year veterans" at the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid. And as in any comparable organization, these workers are likely to prefer things as they've always been. "They are averse to any sort of big change, and they will fight you with every tool at their disposal," McArdle notes. Click for her full column.

President Barack Obama waves after speaking at the SelectUSA Investment Summit, Thursday, Oct. 31, 2013 in Washington. Obama encouraged international businesses and investors to bring new investment and jobs to the United States.
President Barack Obama waves after speaking at the "SelectUSA Investment Summit," Thursday, Oct. 31, 2013 in Washington. Obama encouraged international businesses and investors to bring new investment...   (AP Photo/ Evan Vucci)
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